LAFAYETTE, La. – Lafayette Consolidated Government is suing the man who created fake ANTIFA social media events, claiming the hoaxes have cost the city “considerable sums of money.”

The lawsuit, filed in the 15th Judicial District in Lafayette, alleges John Merrifield cost the city-parish government money when he created two fake Facebook events that said Antifa would show up in the city’s high-end River Ranch community and the Acadiana Mall. 

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages of less than $75,000. 

“I think he should bear the brunt of some of the costs, if not all of the costs, that his actions cost the taxpayers,” Mayor-President Josh Guillory said on his Thursday morning radio show.

“We will always take these threats seriously, but we’re not just going to always respond and say, ‘OK, thank you. Let us pay all this overtime from the taxpayers.’ Heck no. We will stop at no measure to recoup the costs that the taxpayers have to pay for this kind of stuff,” Guillory said.

Merrifield, who lives in New York but grew up in Lafayette, said he consulted legal counsel and that his outlook is optimistic. 

“Fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize to the citizens of Lafayette who were gullible enough to fall for a satire event created by a comedy meme page run by a satirist and comedian twice.”

The city-parish’s lawsuit claims that after President Donald Trump tweeted that ANTIFA should be designated as a terrorist organization, hoax events started to pop up around the U.S. targeting smaller cities because the information could easily spread on social media. 

MORE: What is antifa and what does the movement want?

ANTIFA, short for “anti-fascists,” is the name for loosely affiliated, left-leaning anti-racist groups that have been involved in some violent clashes in recent years. The movement has no unified structure or national leadership. 

Facebook InfoSnip First hoax event was intended to be ‘satirical’ 

Merrifield, who owns the Facebook page “cajUUUn Memes,” created an event in July called “ANTIFA takes River Ranch.” . The social media post was satirical and the event’s description included jokes to tip people off, Merrifield told The Daily Advertiser at the time.

The event called for “cajun comrades” to take over River Ranch and set the event to start at 4:20 p.m., citing the 420 number popularly associated with marijuana. Merrifield said the post clearly was satirical because it invited only “card-carrying” ANTIFA members, which he said means no one would show up.

The post also references armed demonstrators protesting against COVID-19 restrictions, saying “Arms optional. Legs encouraged.”

“I initially worded the section so that anyone with discernment could figure out that it’s satirical,” Merrifield said in July. “Good satire blurs the line between reality and fiction.” 

But “concerned residents flooded” Lafayette Consolidated Government with phone calls, city-parish lawyers James Gibson and Michael Adley argued in their lawsuit. The Lafayette Police Department and Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the event. 

“No credible information was found to support the post,” according to the lawsuit. “Because the hoax continued to be believed and spread, Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government feared armed counter protesters, and perhaps actual ANTIFA-inspired agitators, would appear at Ruffino’s on the River and lead to violence and/or destruction of property.”

‘Antifa hunter’: Man gets 3 years for racist threats against Black political candidate, activist

Lafayette police positioned a surveillance station at the Camellia Boulevard restaurant, and on the day of the supposed rally, “numerous police officers and sheriff deputies” were sent to Ruffino’s to “ensure no harm befell any citizens or property from people taking the ANTIFA hoax seriously.”

Facebook InfoSnip Second hoax event highlights Trayford Pellerin shooting

The lawsuit mentions a second event, “ANTIFA Takes Acadiana Mall,” that was scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29.

The social media post called for Antifa “membership cards” and noted the goal was to make “Mayor-President Josh Guillotine (Guillory) to park as many empty patrol cars as they can fit in the parking lot.”

A link to the social media event “updates” to send viewers to a GoFundMe created by the family of Trayford Pellerin, a Black man who was shot and killed by Lafayette Police

Lafayette police received panicked calls from mall employees and customers, according to the lawsuit.

“Numerous police officers were dispatched to the Acadiana Mall, and the mall had to close early,” the lawsuit states. 

Mall security indicated the stores were closed after 2 p.m. and customers were told in an announcement to leave. 

The social media post promoted an event that was scheduled after protests had taken place in the prior week around the city in response to the fatal Lafayette police shooting of 31-year-old Pellerin.

A week earlier, protesters had gathered at Acadiana Mall and stopped traffic on nearby Ambassador Caffery Parkway and Johnston Street when they marched in the road. 

Merrifield said the fake event was supposed to highlight how police treat some groups differently, and “fail to offer the same protections to the working poor and mentally ill people of color, such as in the case of Trayford Pellerin’s execution.”

That night, Lafayette Police Chief Scott Morgan said during a press conference the response at the mall was not because of protests. He said the abrupt way the mall closed may have “given people the wrong idea.” Prior to the closure, there had been no threats, protests or riots, a department spokesman said at the time. 

The fake Antifa events cost the city money, which the lawsuit claims was Merrified’s intention. 

“The hoaxes have caused Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government considerable sums of money — both in investigating and responding to the hoax events,” according to the lawsuit.” 

Contributing: Andrew Capps, Lafayette Advertiser. Follow Ashley White on Twitter: @AshleyyDi

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