12:07 PM ET
People carried signs reading “Nazi Lanes” at the Minneapolis anti-bike lane demonstration, which several political candidates attended.
You probably haven’t heard of internet prankster Jeremy Piatt, but you may be familiar with his work. A mock GoFundme campaign to “Get Kanye out of debt” was widely covered in the press as serious, with Kanye’s camp eventually having to clarify that no, he didn’t want the money.
Piatt, a graphic designer by trade, recently pulled off a sequel of sorts by stirring up the hornet’s nest that is the the current bike lane debate in Minneapolis. About two weeks ago, Piatt created a Facebook event for what he thought would be a fake protest against new extended bike lanes near his home downtown.
He wrote that the streets had become “congested driving nightmares” since lanes were installed, “making driving a mess.” He ended with a rallying cry in all-caps: “TAKE BACK OUR CITY!
But some people took his invitation seriously. On Sunday, while Piatt was nowhere to be found, a small crowd of about 15 to 25 people showed up to protest at the designated place—the intersection of 26th and Hennepin Avenue –including two city council candidates, Joe Kovacs and David Schorn. The protest was even more intense than Piatt had satirically called for: As Minneapolis’s ever-present political Twitter account, @WedgeLIVE, noted, people carried signs that read “Mafia Lanes,” “Suck it Lanes,” and “Nazi Lanes.” For extra effect, sign posts were painted red to look like they were dripping with blood.
Bike lane protest story: Now with way more Nazi! http://www.citypages.com/news/minneapolis-bike-lane-protest-draws-20-people-one-dog/450911493 …
— City Pages (@citypages)
A reminder to not take street safety progress for granted. Opponents of bike lanes marched today w offensive “Nazi Lane” signs. Ht @smorin10
— Our Streets Mpls (@OurStreetsMpls)
How did what was intended as a fake call for protest turn into an invective-laden real-life event, and one of the most extreme examples of what is known as “bikelash”?
It started with the response to Piatt.
After he created an event, people took the bait. with the pro-bike camp being the first to jump in.
“It was all cyclists arguing with nobody basically, just showing everybody how great they are and just kind of patting themselves on the back. They started sharing it, then the real people who are actually against the bike lanes started sharing it,” Piatt told CityLab.
Now Piatt had an audience, and like any good internet troll, he knew what to do. “I kept fanning the flames and putting in terrible memes with comic sans,” he said.