- The Wichita Police Department arrested Rashawn L Mayes Jr. and Michael E. Boston Jr. in relation to posts on social media
- The posts were one of a handful of false posts spread on social media causing panic throughout Wichita and surrounding areas
- After facing an onslaught of community outrage, both men were released from the Sedgwick County Jail without charges
- Despite a handful of similar social media posts, Mayes and Boston were the only arrests made by the WPD in relation to social media activity
On Thursday, the Wichita Police Department arrested two young black males following a handful of hoax social media posts. The two arrests were the only arrests made despite multiple people making similar posts on Facebook.
Police arrested Michael E. Boston Jr., 20, of Wichita, and Rashawn L. Mayes Jr., 19, of Park City, on suspicion of inciting a riot. Both men were taken to Sedgwick County Jail where they were held on a $10,000 bond. After outrage spread throughout the city over the arrests, both men were released without charges.
Discuss received a screenshot of the post made by Mayes. The post included a screenshot that read, “They wan fuck with us and shoot us we gone fuck up the white neighborhoods first step we gone link up off 21st and Arkansas do the normal(7pm), Next stop we finish what we started on Rock rd just fuck it all up, After all that is finished we go towards the bel air and park city and valley center area, I heard Walmart’s and other places got white folks talking shit Lets spread all over the city and go CRAZY Tonight.” The screenshot included the hashtags #Fuck12 and #BlackLivesMatter.
In the screenshot that appears to have come from Snapchat, Mayes wrote a warning that read, “stay tf away from bel aire and park city yoo.” On Mayes’ Facebook post, the caption read, “Man these mf are crazy bro wtf is going on with this world.” It is not clear if Boston included any captions with his posts.
The screenshots went viral and caused panic throughout the Wichita, Park City, and Valley Center area. However, they were not the first posts. A handful of false claims about the Wichita area have been spreading on social media including threats of looting, Antifa attacks, and citizen vigilantes. The difference is, nobody else was arrested but Mayes and Boston.
Several days ago Sherrie Curry made a post related to a planned shutdown of Kellogg that was by prevented by WPD. Curry claims “ANTIFA” was in the area to cause “chaos” and “violence.” Her post read, “Avoid East Kellogg between business district Waco/River to Hillside area and neighborhoods in between. ANTIFA is here to cause chaos/violence and will be in those areas. Please be safe. This has been confirmed by several Wichita Police officers.”
Antifa has become the scapegoat for rioting and heavy protests across the country. There is currently no evidence of an organized Antifa faction in the Wichita area, mainly due to the fact that Antifa is not an organized group. It is believed the white supremacist group Identity Evropa is behind many of the false threats and Antifa claims. Twitter has confirmed they shut down multiple accounts operated by Identity Evropa. Going even further, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated they have collected no intelligence indicating Antifa has been involved with any of the George Floyd related protests despite President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr trying to push this false narrative.
On Monday night, a protest area in Wichita had a heated exchange with police when a small group met with a police riot line following a night of burnouts, several gunshots, and one incident of petty vandalism. The small group that clashed with police threw rocks, bottles, and even shot at officers who returned fire with tear gas, flashbangs, and foam bullets.
On Tuesday, businesses on both the east side and west side of Wichita boarded up windows and closed down early following another threat on social media that appeared to be false. Christian Gast shared a screenshot to her Facebook that received over 700 shares before it was removed. The screenshot read, “Wichita friends: Do not go to Newmarket today. Austins friend who is a police officer worked the riot last night and they were shot at and the same group that rioted and destroyed a business is planning on going to new market. Stay safe everyone.”
Having attended almost every action that has occurred in Wichita over the last week, I can confidently say the events that have escalated were not organized. Instead, they appear to have been organic developments lacking both a message and any kind of organization. Gast claim that the “same group” was going to destroy businesses is hard to believe as there did not appear to be a single organized group. Another false claim from Gast was that a business had been destroyed. In reality, a single window at a Metro store was broken. Others in the area quickly swarmed the building before things could go any further. When Gast was further questioned about her claims and her police source, she deleted her post and appears to have set her profile to private.
On Thursday a post looking to form an armed vigilante group began circulating on Facebook. Charles Wilson posted, “Ok Facebook friends I’ve kept this off Facebook for some Obvious reasons. I’ve gathered 18 close friends we are all legally caring our AR’s. We are going to start our own patrols tonight. We have 4 15 passenger vans. We are going to have a police scanner and figure out where these looters are and go protect these local businesses. we will not except anyone that we do not know to travel with us. We do not take any instigators. Just ready to protect the city in our own way. If you’re interested private message me.” It is not clear when the post was made but it appears to have since been deleted.
One of the stranger claims comes from the “Christian Family Ministries – Wichita, Ks” Facebook page, which claimed “several good sources” say current events were related to “an attempted Communist/Marxist revolution.” The post read, “Just in… Sue: Got a heads up from the gal that heads Tues nite study. She alerted us by email that a (hopefully) rumor states some mobs are planning to riot at Town East Sq. and New Market square tonight. Supplication and prayer is needed so much. Also several good sources say this is an attempted Communist/Marxist revolution…I’m sure this is prophecy unfolding b4 our eyes. But God is greater than all this! It means that Jesus’ return is that much closer! luv U! Judi: Be careful and pray folks!” The post is still on the Facebook page but has since been edited to remove the claim of a “Communist/Marxist revolution.”
Despite all of these posts that read almost exactly the same as Mayes’ post, the only arrests made were of the two young black men. WPD Chief Gordon Ramsay said in a statement on Thursday, “Those who promote and engage in violence will be arrested. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including federal charges.” Many in the community were confused by the arrest of Mayes and Boston, especially considering the handful of other viral social media posts that included the same layout. An unfounded claim that warned people not to go to a certain area. The arrests came in the middle of heavy protests around the country following the murder of George Floyd.
On Wednesday night, a peaceful protest shut down the intersection of 13th and Oliver. After the crowd shut down the intersection, people gathered in the area until early Thursday morning. One police cruiser was used to disperse the small group that remained and there were no incidents between the group and police.