Uneasy peace: Social media buzz points to more Baltimore violence as cops, troops keep the peace


Baltimore firefighters battle a three-alarm fire Monday, April 27, 2015, at a senior living facility under construction at Federal and Chester Streets in East Baltimore. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The data mining firm that found between 20 and 50 social media accounts in Baltimore linked to the violence in Ferguson, Mo. is now reporting a spike in message traffic in Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, with “protesters” trying to get rides to Baltimore for Tuesday night.

While the data review is ongoing, the firm, which asked to remain anonymous because it does government work, said some of the suspect social media accounts in Baltimore are sending messages to incite violence. While it is possible to spoof an account, to make it look like someone is one place and really is in another, that does not fully explain the high numbers.

The use of social media to fuel violence in Baltimore has already been highlighted by law enforcement. On Monday, police said an online call was issued for a “purge” at 3 p.m. ET, starting at Mondawmin Mall and ending in the downtown area. That type of threat is based on a movie called “The Purge,” the plot of which involves rampant lawlessness.

An Instagram “Purge” notice for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday has been circulated among Defense Department security contacts, and while its authenticity cannot be verified, Baltimore County Police chief Jim Johnson confirmed Tuesday afternoon the department is aggressively monitoring social media for threats.

“We have been working for the last several days on numerous Facebook, social media threats or efforts to organize and bring people together,” he said at a news conference. “We place a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of investigation into verifying these circumstances.”

Johnson, however, said that there are “no credible threats” to citizens, businesses, or other property in Baltimore County, but added that law enforcement resources are in place. “Pre-emptively, we have taken action to make sure we have adequate staffing, restructuring our schedule, bringing people in – in some cases, allowing overtime to make sure that we have the personnel needed to respond to any particular circumstance that may develop in the county.”

At a late afternoon press conference, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said there would be 2,000 National Guardsmen on duty Tuesday night, along with 1,000 law enforcement officers, and “this combined force will not tolerate violence or looting.”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

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