Russian influence comes to Magic Valley

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - A scheduled Facebook protest event against refugees from August of 2016 causes allegations of Russian involvement.

Mayor of Twin Falls Shawn Barigar was out of the loop of this planned rally.

"I don't have anything about that. I wasn't invited to the rally. I don't know anything about it," Mayor Barigar says.

New information surfaced which claims the Russian government planned a protest called 'Citizens Before Refugees' in Twin Falls.

Being pulled into international spotlight is not a new thing, Mayor Barigar said.

"We certainly have dealt with our fair share of Twin Falls being pulled in and out of the national narrative over the last few years," he says.

The allegations come from an article posted this week by The Daily Beast, saying Facebook confirmed that 'the events were promoted with paid ads.'

The article specifically to an Aug. 27 2016 rally supporting anti-Muslim sentiment.

Zeze Rwasama, director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, says "Sometime last year, I heard that there was this rally that was organized. I waited to hear about it. I didn't hear anything about it."

The article also stated 'Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook's event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protest in the U.S.'

"I didn't hear anything about it. I guess it's because the organizers didn't follow us. They found themselves there without anyone that was supporting them," Rwasama says.

The supposed interference from another government doesn't surprise him. He almost expects it because of what he describes as great success with the refugee program in the Magic Valley.

"It encourages me. It means I'm doing the right thing when I hear all of this," he says.

"Our focus has really been one of the core values of our community being inclusive and welcoming of other citizens in our area," Mayor Barigar says.

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