Organizers of the upcoming #WalkAway March in Washington, D.C. are billing their event as an opportunity to rally all those who use the #WalkAway hashtag, indicating they’ve walked away from the Democratic Party. They’re calling on supporters to come to the nation’s capital and prove their hashtag wasn’t amplified by Russian bots, but represents real people. It’s going to be, according to organizers, an “historic march.”
But between the poor organizing and the clear attempts to turn the rally into a grifting operation, the march is shaping up to be another thing entirely: a resounding flop.
The march, scheduled for October 27, is being organized by Brandon Straka, the man who popularized the #WalkAway hashtag earlier this year. Straka, who describes himself as a former liberal, launched the hashtag in May, and has since become a favorite in right-wing circles.
It’s unclear exactly how much of that popularity was organic, however, given that Straka used stock photos for his #WalkAway campaign and Russian Twitter bots boosted the hashtag’s reach. (There’s also the matter of Donald Trump being an historically unpopular president, and little indication the Democratic Party is actually losing members.)
Straka ostensibly planned the march to show that those behind the #WalkAway hashtag are, in fact, real. As he said in a video announcing the march, “It’s time for the silent majority to become unsilent.”
The motto for the march is just as memorable: “The people. The power. The hashtag.”
As it is, the event has all the trappings of a grifting operation. The prices are exorbitant: $250 for dinner, $350 for a “VIP Cocktail Hour,” $85 for brunch alone. One package sells for $10,000, and features things like tickets to the farewell brunch — hosted, naturally, at the Trump International Hotel — and a “PHOTO OPPORTUNITY WITH (Insert Name of Big Name Celeb Here).”
There’s also a wealth of merchandise available, including T-shirts that read, “I am not the Russian Bot that you’re looking for.”
But it also seems like a ham-fisted operation, reminiscent of other pro-Trump and anti-Democrat events — despite the fact that organizers have raised nearly $300,000 to help the #WalkAway campaign take off. (Some of that money, it turns out, has come from the virulent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.)
For instance, Straka had planned on organizing a pair of bus trips from Wisconsin and Florida to the march next week. However, both now appear defunct. Not only does the link for the Milwaukee trip take users to a route that includes, for some reason, Georgia and North Carolina, but it appears the trips themselves have been canceled outright. According to one commenter on the defunct bus trip site, the trips were canceled due to a “lack of ticket sales.”
The slate of speakers scheduled to appear at the march also leaves plenty to be desired. Among the headliners are luminaries like self-proclaimed historian Dinesh D’Souza, a former felon recently pardoned by Trump, and pro-Trump Twitter user Bill Mitchell, who’s been described as perhaps Trump’s “most loyal defender.” InfoWars’ Owen Shroyer, the conspiracy channel’s go-to for hosting white nationalists, will also make an appearance.
But for a supposedly “historic march,” the rally couldn’t even land some of the more prominent pro-Trump voices in person. Herman Cain, Antonio Sabato Jr., Diamond & Silk, and Tomi Lahren all opted not to join the march, but will instead be featured remotely. (Like Diamond & Silk, Straka also has a history of playing up claims that he’s being censored by Facebook, even though none of them have actually been censored on social media.) Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is the only prominent former official plugging the event, but even she’s not attending.
Check out this important event coming up! The #WalkAwayMarch on Washington is a weekend long event in Washington DC, 10/26-10/28. This is a movement of Patriots from all walks of life. Join the movement and amplify YOUR voice! https://t.co/gISd1AzkWB
— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) October 12, 2018
And the biggest name who had planned on speaking remotely, podcaster Dave Rubin, also appears to have pulled out entirely. While the rally’s EventBrite page still lists Rubin, the official website no longer features Rubin as a participant. (Rubin and Straka did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for clarification.)
All told, the event might turn out some die-hards trying to prove that they aren’t Russian bots. But the clear lack of prominent right-wing names and overall enthusiasm indicates not only that turnout for the march will be disappointing, but that many more people are themselves walking away from the #WalkAway movement.