Activist says he was targeted by company created by Russians

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Activist Conrad James says he was contacted by an investigative reporter and was told that a Russian group targeted him to lead a protest to cause division within the African American community.

James says the group BlackMattersUS contacted him after they found out he was vocal during the Keith Lamont Scott shooting. The group wanted him to do a protest in Charlotte.

"They looked like a legitimate organization," James said.

Published reports state two online groups - BlackMattersUS and BlackFist - were used by Russian operators to reach out to people to organize rallies.

"I think that it had malicious intent," James said. "Of course, it had a divisive and almost confusing intent. They were anti-Hillary [Clinton]."

James says BlackMattersUS even let him use a bank card to rent about $250 worth of speaker equipment for his rally in Charlotte. He is disappointed the group he thought was helping was intending to cause harm.

"They were in a predatory mentality," James said. "And the prey were activists."

James believes the Russians didn't win at their game. He says activists the Russians targeted came out better and wiser.

"It's made the activist community stronger, as well as added more people - more critical about what they are going to put their name to, what message they are going to band with, what organizations they are going to partner with," James said.

Politicians are now speaking up about this latest story involving Russians.

Senator Thom Tillis issued this statement:

Countering Russia's aggressive actions to meddle in our elections and launch cyber-attacks against the United States requires close coordination between the federal government and the private sector. Our nation must place a higher priority on making sure we have the tools, resources, and education needed to effectively respond to the emerging cyber threats posed by Russia and other hostile states like North Korea and Iran.

Congresswoman Alma Adams also weighed in on the matter. She issued this statement:

While I remain deeply concerned about this attack on our democracy, it is important to note that foreign influence was only exerted over some protest organizers, not the protestors in Charlotte. Many in our community chose to attend the peaceful protests to shed light on a cycle of inequality, police brutality, and the lack of upward mobility found in Charlotte. These peaceful protests were the catalysts for the tough conversations that are now being had across Mecklenburg. We cannot allow these bad actors to deter our involvement in our community. As Congress continues to gather more information I will be studying the impact these acts had on our county and seeking solutions to ensure that this doesn't occur again.

As Congress continues to investigate, Jones has a message for the politicians.

"I don't want this to affect American non-profits or affect American businesses by putting regulations or more scrutiny on social media," Jones said.

The activist says this episode should be a wake-up call for phony groups trying to target people who want bring attention to their issues.

"There's other activists around the world that are going to blow the whistle on malicious intentions by anybody around the world," Jones said.

Copyright 2017 WBTV. All rights reserved.