UPDATE: Coach USA has released the following statement:
"Coach USA buses were in Austin Texas for a conference that was happening at the Austin Convention Center and served as hotel shuttles for the convention. The buses were brought in from San Antonio to Austin empty and returned to San Antonio from Austin empty. At no point were Coach USA buses involved in the Austin protests."
-Sean Hughes, Director of Corporate Affairs, Coach USA North America
Were tens of thousands of protestors across the country paid to walk the streets, hold signs, and chant anti-Trump sayings? Many on social media said the protests were staged and fake.
Thursday night was day two of protesters taking to the streets in Downtown Austin to protest President-Elect Donald Trump. Something causing quite the controversy, it is going around on social media these protests are fake and these people are paid.
Some pictures of charter buses were Tweeted just before nine Wednesday night by someone in Austin with the caption "Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in. #fakeprotests #trump2016 #Austin.” As of Thursday night, it had been retweeted more than 11,000 times. The Twitter user goes on to say “I did not see loading or unloading. There were even more busses than in pics. Quite near protests at right timing. Looks very planned. Every group Trump has possibly offended seemed too perfectly represented. The busses just blocks away," when responding to questions of its legitimacy.
The charter buses were lined up along 5th Street near Waller in Downtown, the closest point to the rally would've been Congress Avenue which is about a mile away. The protest started on the West Mall on the UT campus about 3 miles away. Down the street about 1/2 mile is Austin Convention Center. Local businesses in the area said they've seen charter buses at the location prior to the election. Carol Scott-Duke, works in area, “We are definitely used to events happening around here with buses due to the convention center right over here and there's event centers over here,” she said. One of those events happening at the time of the charter bus Twitter post at the convention center is the Tableau Convention. Kate Lyons is from Portland, Oregon and was one attending the convention. “It's growing every year, five years ago it started with 250 people, now it was 13,000 attendees in person.” She said they have been using charter buses for the event. “They sold out all the hotels downtown and they ended having to send people to hotels that were outside the radius of the conference and sent buses out to ship people around for that. We saw them from day one which was Monday,” she said.
Britt Allen is just one of several hundred who marched in the anti-Trump rally in Austin. “Honestly it wasn't to try to accomplish any change, what's done is done. I got off work and kind of needed an outlet for my frustration and anger and pain.” She said hearing someone say the protest was fake is simply not true. “I know for a fact it wasn't anybody that was paid; it wasn't any kind of conspiracy. I talked to some of the people that started the protest, and I know they are students from campus and they never expected it to be so big,” she said.
From coast to coast, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets refusing to accept Trumps election. The idea it’s fake isn’t just happening here in Austin. Pictures of Craigslist ads are also circulating online asking for Hillary supporters and anti-Trump protesters in Seattle and Manhattan. There's no actual proof these are real.
So who was on the buses in Austin? Those with a shared passion for data or those being paid to hate Trump? "Nobody, not even Trump supporters saw his win coming. So I don't know how they could've planned a protest like this, if they didn’t think that ya know one was going to be needed to begin with. There's just no way, it's just silly, the thought of it."
Protesters rallied late into Thursday evening. They also have another protest scheduled for Friday morning at 11 at the Capitol.