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An hour before Cernovich was supposed to speak, protesters were walking to campus. About halfway through, one person came up to the front, Offenhartz told BuzzFeed News. The progression stopped for a minute, and that’s when the sign was unveiled.

“You could tell that there were at least one or two people there who, as soon as the sign was held up, skirted off and got out of the way,” he said.

He said a few reporters took photos of the sign, but the protesters quickly realized what was going on and stopped holding the sign.

“A lot of these protesters are aware of the fact that this is an alt-right tactic, so it didn’t take them long at all to figure out what’s going on,” he said.

After the 2016 presidential election, Trump supporters held up a “Rape Melania” sign at an anti-Trump protest in Washington, DC. It drew condemnation from both sides of the political spectrum, but BuzzFeed News reported that it was part of a coordinated misinformation campaign.

Aaron Holmes, the news editor for the Columbia Spectator, was reporting on the protest along with two others. He said none of them saw the commotion, but no other protester they saw was holding signs supporting pedophilia.

“They were holding signs against Mike Cernovich’s comments on Islam, Black Lives Matter signs,” he told BuzzFeed News.

Cernovich went on Periscope to discuss what happened. He said “the media is spreading false flag conspiracy theories” and later wrote a Medium post outlining similar points.

BuzzFeed News reached out to Cernovich to ask him about the details of what happened but did not immediately heard back.

“It seemed at first to me like a small silly little troll, but then it’s concerning to watch how the alt-right sausage gets made,” Offenhartz said. “It does seem to me like there are supporters out there who either believe this is true or don’t care to find out.”

Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.

Contact Jane Lytvynenko at [email protected].

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