A rumor that left-wing protest groups were planning to descend on Beatrice caused panic on social media among some in the Gage County community.

Another post on Craigslist advertising the need for protesters "to cause as much chaos and destruction as possible" in Lincoln also caught on among right-wing groups online.

In both instances, as well as many more across the country, the rumors of "antifa" groups ready to sow discord and destruction in cities big and small have been nothing more than that — rumors.

Beatrice Police Chief Bruce Lang said officers caught wind of a plan for antifa, short for anti-fascists, to travel to Fairbury or Crete, before their plans switched for his town of roughly 12,500 people.

As a precaution, Lang put officers on call, to be ready either for a peaceful demonstration or something more serious, he said.

He also gave a head's-up to the Beatrice Area Chamber of Commerce, which led the business organization to email its employees and put the information on its social media pages.

"This alert comes to you so you can be prepared and perhaps be at your place of business, if you'd like to keep an eye out/minimize damage, in case something does happen," Executive Director Angie Bruna wrote. "Please remember, it is not legal to use lethal force to protect your property in Beatrice/Nebraska."

The message was later shared on social media, where it caused panic among some in Beatrice before Lang attempted to tamp down the anxiety with a post of his own.

"There is no concrete evidence or organized plans that we are aware of for protesters to be in Beatrice," he wrote.

The Chamber later removed the post and said it had "sparked some reactions that we had not intended."

Lincoln hasn't been immune to innuendo that antifa groups have organized to cause destruction amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter rallies and marches that have been held in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.

A Craigslist post that later jumped to Facebook, where it was shared among right-wing groups, offered to pay up to 1,000 people $25 per hour to "cause as much chaos and destruction as possible" in downtown Lincoln.

"This will take place every night through the BLM protest on June 13," the post states. "You will be paid nightly, and can come and go as you please. We want chaos to help further our agenda."

Officer Erin Spilker said Lincoln Police are aware of the online rumor and are investigating its authenticity — but have found no indication that it's real.

Plenty of rumors have spread in recent days, Spilker said, including one where protesters planned to meet at a Walmart in south Lincoln and march through the surrounding neighborhoods.

Police will investigate each rumor that comes in, she added, but "have a good grasp on what we think is legitimate against those things that are circulating around the internet."

Similar rumors have spread online in other places around the country after President Donald Trump blamed antifa activists and outside agitators for protests that turned into riots in recent days.

"It's ANTIFA and the Radical Left," the president tweeted over the weekend.

The vast majority of the arrests made by Lincoln Police and the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office in recent days have been residents of Lincoln.

On Sunday, 39 of the 44 people arrested for breaking a curfew set by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird were from Lincoln. On Monday, 26 of 30 people arrested for vandalizing a Target after a peaceful protest ended are also residents of the Capitol City.

All but one of those not from Lincoln are Nebraska residents.

Social media companies have said many of the rumors about antifa showing up in residential areas or predominantly white neighborhoods to wreak havoc have come from imposter accounts or white supremacist organizations.

Some posts have been taken down, the Associated Press reported earlier this week, while others persist.

Protests in cities across Nebraska this weekend

Protesters took to the streets in Grand Island, Kearney, North Platte and Scottsbluff as well as Lincoln and Omaha.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS