Anti-Qatar protest fails to materialise after 'protesters-for-hire scheme' exposed

Anti-Qatar protest fails to materialise after 'protesters-for-hire scheme' exposed
A planned demonstration against Qatar's emir outside Downing Street fell flat after it was revealed that a PR agency had allegedly attempted to hire protesters.
3 min read
24 July, 2018
Only tourists could be seen at Downing Street during the planned 'protest' [TNA]
A planned anti-Qatar protest outside the UK prime minister's official residence on Downing Street failed to materialise on Tuesday after it was revealed a PR agency had apparently attempted to hire protesters.

The demonstration was set to coincide with the arrival of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani's arrival at Number 10 to meet Theresa May.

Just days before the Qatari leader's arrival, actors registered on the books of casting agency "Extra People" were sent messages saying that they would be paid twenty pounds (minus £4.80 in commission fees) to stand outside the prime minister's office for two hours.  

"This is NOT a film or TV production," the advert read.

"The company are looking for a large group of people to fill space outside Downing Street during the visit of the president of Quatar [sic]. This is anti-Quatar even [sic]. You will not have to do or say anything, they just want to fill space."

On Monday, the agency pulled the advert saying: "On reflection... we do not feel Extra People should be involved in such a project."  

As suspicions grew, the agency revealed they had been hired by a public relations firm named "Neptune PR" - a company registered to a "virtual" shared office space and which, until Monday, had zero online presence. It set up a Twitter account just hours before the Qatari emir's arrival in London. But the company denied all involvement in the advert.

"We demand you to provide a shred of evidence to support this outrageous claim. Can you provide an email trail to Neptune PR," the PR firm tweeted to Extra People.

"Such accusations are liable to led to legal action. Therefore, We shall consult our lawyers," it added.

Extra People responded by posting a screenshot of the request allegedly received from Neptune PR for 300-500 people.

Tourists, not protesters, were the only people to be seen outside Downing Street at the time of the planned 'protest' [TNA]
On Tuesday, however, the online commotion between Extra People and Neptune PR was not matched at the gates of Number 10 Downing Street, where the only notable gathering was that of tourists taking photographs.

Small protests of a few dozen people took place elsewhere on Tuesday and earlier on Sunday.

On Monday, reports emerged on Twitter that that some of those participating in the anti-Qatar demonstrations had admitted they were paid £50 each and bused in from Birmingham.

Saudi Twitter bots were also in overdrive on Monday, in an attempt to derail the Qatari Emir's visit.

An analysis by The New Arab showed that a large number of the profiles using the hashtag #OpposeQatarVisit were likely software-controlled automated accounts, designed to spread fake news about Qatar and build traffic and visibility for the hashtag.

The bots were joined by none other than Nigel Farage, a Donald Trump-supporting far-right wing radio talkshow host and seven-time failed parliamentary candidate for the United Kingdom Independence Party, who bemoaned the lack of protests against the emir in London.

The original advert:

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