Local leaders respond to claims Charlotte rally was organized by Russians

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Federal officials believe Russian nationals may have manipulated someone in the United States to help organize a rally in Charlotte.

The "Charlotte Against Trump" rally took place in November of 2016. People marched and chanted in opposition of then President-Elect Trump.

A 37-page indictment released by the United States Justice Department lists allegations against several Russian nationals. In total, 13 are facing charges connected to alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

"You know it's obviously concerning when you see your city on such an important document like the one that came out here today," Charlotte City Council member Braxton Winston said..

Winston was present at the 2016 anti-Trump rally that is mentioned in the indictment. At the time he didn't think there was anything suspicious about the event.

"It was just like many of the other rallies I've been part of," said Winston.

RELATED: Russians charged with meddling in 2016 presidential race

There was chanting and marching at the 2016 rally. Federal officials have said they think the goal of events like the Charlotte rally was to spread distrust towards candidates and the political system.

"The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans advocating for and against particular candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans," said United States Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a press conference Friday.

Jibril Hough, an activist and spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, was also present at the Charlotte rally. He discredited the alleged meddling Friday.

"I didn't need the Russians to tell me who to vote for. I didn't vote for Trump or Hillary," said Hough.

He and Winston are convinced the Russians didn't change any political opinions at the 2016 event.

"They tried to coopt and break us down. I can tell you they were not successful. The people that were (at the rally) grew a step closer and weren't further torn apart," said Winston.

Federal officials have said they do not think the actions of the Russians influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in any way.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Friday to state his campaign did not collude with the Russians.

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