An investigation conducted by The Star, in which the group was joined by an undercover reporter, found that members of Freenation Sheffield - an anti-vaxxer group which often meets in Endcliffe Park in the city - regularly shared articles, videos and propaganda claiming knowledge of a conspiracy to exterminate white people and enslave survivors.
Also posted on a regular basis is content which is openly supportive of the nazis and conspiracies often adopted by far-right movements such as the ‘Kalergi Plan’, and other posts are homophobic or anti-semitic. Members also regularly re-post items banned from other social media sites.
Not a single one of the offending posts – some of which were shared months ago – was challenged by any of the members or admins of the group, which operates on encrypted messaging app Telegram. Those who posted them remain members at the time of writing.
The racially-motivated hate posts in the group are present alongside other misinformation relating to resisting the vaccine, information directing people to organised anti-vaccine protests and meet-ups, and claims the virus is caused by 5G and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF).
The Freenation Sheffield Telegram channel, which at the time of writing has 134 members including the reporter’s undercover account, is also a space where anti-vaccine propaganda from other channels can be shared. This includes directions on how to fake vaccination cards and advice for care workers who wish to continue working in care homes while unvaccinated.
And throughout the pandemic the group organised events aimed at flouting social distancing rules, including a regular ‘Sunday Freedom Walk’.
The Star was alerted to the existence of the group by a former member, who wished to highlight the hateful nature of the content being shared.
The former member, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted by the group, spoke to The Star about their experiences within Freenation Sheffield.
They said: “Last year a friend told me that coronavirus was a hoax and that I should not wear a mask. At first they appeared to have statistics to back this up, and I agreed to take a look.
“I met more members of the group ‘FreeNation Sheffield’ who also refer to themselves as ‘The Freedom Movement’ and ‘The Truth Community’. I initially thought they were doing little more than organising county walks and hanging round town in groups of half a dozen, with one usually holding a placard.
“However, I then became aware of clandestine meetings in abandoned steel mills and front rooms with the curtains closed. I heard tales of how news events such as terrorist attacks were staged by cannibalistic child abusers.
“As time has gone by, FreeNation Sheffield has become all the more obviously cult-like. They pressurise their members to disown their loved ones and relentlessly stress that society is divided into two irreconcilable groups, those who were ‘awake’ to the conspiracy, and the ‘sheeple’, who are merely cowardly followers, complicit in the tyrannical ‘New World Order’.
“Members are warned that if they walk past a vaccinated person they will be poisoned by it. Members will often no longer have anything to do with people who are not ‘awake’. People referring to themselves as ‘spiritual light-workers’ distribute dubious medical advice and deny climate change.
“As time has passed, claims made by FreeNation Sheffield have gone from being unsettling to showing their true colours as far-right extremist and potentially very violent organisation. I have realised that when they say ‘cabal’, it is actually a code word for ‘Jewish people’.
“I have been shocked to see seemingly friendly Sheffield folk, many of whom are enthusiastic about yoga, health food, meditation and other spiritual pursuits, sharing articles by the EDL, BNP and the KKK. I was told that this wasn’t just about masks and vaccines, and that those things are part of a bigger plot which is apparently ‘diluting’ the purity of the Aryan race.
“At one point I was even told that if a woman wears animal print, it is because she’s fallen victim to a government mind control project using brain wave technology, the object of which is to turn her into a “whore”.
“Members of this ‘FreeNation Sheffield’/ ‘Freedom Movement’ / ‘Truth Community’ / ‘Red Piller Truthers’ (to name a few of their aliases) are taking action. They are now talking about removing their children not only from mainstream education but also from society altogether.
“They apparently plan to live ‘off-grid’ in communes in which their children’s education will presumably consist of pseudoscience, white supremacy and homophobia, the likes of which these cult members consider to be their gospel. This is a terrifying thought.
“I know that this movement is in no way limited to Sheffield and has groups in many cities.”
Telegram, which says it is committed to protecting freedom of expression and user privacy above all else and historically does not censor hate speech, has been approached for comment.
Evidence gathered for this article has been passed on to South Yorkshire Police.