On Saturday night, Alissa Violet, a social media influencer with nearly 3 million followers on YouTube and more than 7 million on Instagram, posted a video of herself crying outside a bar in Cleveland followed by a selfie showing a swollen eye and bloody lip.
“Barley House in Cleveland literally just tried so much shit, they fucked us up,” she cries into to her phone before cutting to her boyfriend, Ricky “FaZe” Banks, a fellow YouTube star with 4 million followers. “These guys just fucking choked me out,” he screams and throws up a middle finger toward the bar.
The two had barely made it home from the hospital where Banks was receiving treatment for a broken finger he got from punching a bouncer when their rabid online fans had declared war.
While many actors and influencers have sizable online fanbases, the level of dedication teens show toward their favorite YouTubers and internet stars has reached cult status. Even Taylor Swift’s most obsessed fans can’t compete with YouTuber armies like the “Jake Paulers” (fans of Jake Paul), the “Logang” (fans of Logan Paul), or “Cloutgang” (fans of Alissa Violet and others).
Violet’s fans view her not as just a celebrity but one of their closest friends. She posts daily videos about her life in Los Angeles, photos of recent modeling shoots, jokes, and personal stories on Twitter and Snapchat. She tends to her legion by faving tweets, shouting out fans, and making her followers feel like they’re intimately involved in every detail of her life.
Her online army dedicates an enormous amount of time to watching her videos, commenting on her posts, and setting up stan accounts in her likeness. When they saw someone had hurt her on Saturday night, that fanbase didn’t ask questions.
Violet’s “Cloutgang” went into attack mode, leaving one Cleveland-area bar with a dead website and a newly filed lawsuit, and several misidentified locals at the end of an unrelenting internet harassment campaign.
Details of what exactly what happened that night are still murky. Violet and Banks were visiting Violet’s family in Cleveland when they decided to go to Barley House, a popular downtown bar where Violet’s friend knew people. At some point Banks began to cause a disturbance and the two were asked to leave. When Banks pushed back, they were thrown out of the establishment.
In the background of Violet’s Snapchat video, Banks can be seen instigating a fight with the bouncer and loudly shouting. Both he and Violet appear visibly intoxicated. After the two refused to leave the premises, two women attacked Violet, possibly for filming them. This caused her bloody lip.
“We have done an internal investigation and have come to the conclusion that our employees did an exceptional job handling the situation that was instigated on three separate occasions throughout the night by Ricky Banks and Alissa Violet,” the Barley House said in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday.
“We have also come to the conclusion that Ricky and Alissa are instigators, liars, and manipulators. They are trying to use their social media influence to not only destroy our business, but to encourage people to harm our employees physically and emotionally… This is not only evident in the video footage and witness statements, but in audio that was recorded in which you can hear Ricky and Alissa yelling ‘Do you know who we are?? We can ruin you!’, over and over.”
Banks issued a competing statement saying he was simply trying to wait outside the women’s bathroom when he was thrown out of the bar. He said it was the bouncer who got aggressive and he was simply an innocent bystander.
Both sides have said publicly that they’re pressing charges.
Although the owners of Barley House have yet to see their day in court, Violet and Banks’ devoted fans have already reached a verdict.
Thousands of the duo’s followers have spent the last 48 hours working nonstop to destroy the Barley House’s reputation.
Barley House’s social media pages were flooded with hate messages within hours of the incident. “Disgusting pigs own this place!” one commenter shouted on the company’s Facebook page. “Scum,” wrote many others. “You want Jake Paul take Jake Paul you scum,” another person said, alluding to Violet’s famous YouTuber ex-boyfriend.
The bar attempted to quell the deluge by putting its Twitter and Instagram accounts on lockdown, to minimal effect. Its website suffered a DDoS attack and went offline.
Violet’s fans have also swarmed Yelp with false reviews. The Barley House’s Yelp rating plummeted to a single star before Yelp shut down the page with a notice that it was “cleaning up” the spam on Monday.
But it’s not just the Barley House that is under attack—it’s also the people of Cleveland.
Shortly after Violet posted her snaps, her fans began a citywide manhunt to find the man and two women she had identified as her attackers. Fans pored over random Cleveland residents’ Instagram and Facebook pages looking for clues. Some posted about driving hours to the city itself to seek justice.
By Monday morning, several local citizens had been misidentified and wrongly implicated in Violet’s attack, leading to a tidal wave of hate. Courtney, a Cleveland resident, said her whole family has been under attack since her brother, Steve Donaldson Jr., was wrongly identified as a man in Violet’s Snapchat video.
Donaldson was sitting in church Sunday morning when a barrage of messages and death threats began lighting up his phone.
“Our family woke up to all these hate messages and follower requests,” Courtney said, adding that at first they had no idea what was going on. “Her [Violet’s] fans looked up old addresses of ours, saying we should watch our back.”
Donaldson later issued a public statement via Google Docs saying he was at home and in bed by 8:30 p.m. on the night in question, and his sister posted to Facebook asking friends to help clear his name.
Employees of the Barley House also came under fire.
Chris Loftus, a social media director for the bar, was forced to lock down his account after receiving threats. Dolores Mack, another employee who was misidentified as one of the women who struck Alissa, took to Instagram to declare her innocence and support for her colleagues. “I will support Barley House the way you all support Alissa,” she wrote.
Her account was promptly inundated with hateful messages from YouTube fans. Her most recent Instagram now has nearly 6,000 comments saying things like “rot in hell,” “die bitch,” “I hope you get hit,” and “fucking rat.”
One woman whose boyfriend works at Barley House woke up to an Instagram message saying, “Hope u and ur family dies I know where ur friends live I will kill them u piece of dog shit,” among others.
There were rumors of an in-person protest happening on Sunday outside the Barley House, which never materialized. Still, some fans have posted videos of themselves on social media on their way to “visit” the bar. In the meantime, the Barley House told The Daily Beast that the bar is “open as normal.”
Three employees of local businesses who are situated either next to or across the street from the Barley House said they had no idea about the drama taking place online. “It looks normal on the street to me,” said one man who works at a nearby liquor store.
“No one in Cleveland even knows who these YouTubers are,” said Molly McSweeney, founder of Cleveland Cocktail Week who has done events with Barley House before. She added that she was appalled to see what the bar has been going through.
“Barley House security is probably one of the tightest in Cleveland. They always have to Cleveland police officers at the door. They pay their security well,” she said. “On average there are at least 10 bouncers on a night like Saturday. In eight years, I’ve probably seen one or two fights there. The owners are local guys that own lots of clubs and bars that are all extremely accessible. They do more for the city of Cleveland than LeBron, in my opinion.”
The Barley House is also no stranger to catering to celebrity needs. The bar hosted Kim Kardashian in 2010. Cleveland Cavaliers star Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union have been spotted there recently.
“The whole bartending community feels terrible that all these people are being harassed,” McSweeney said.
A local resident said that she is looking forward to the legal proceedings and for Barley House’s security footage to be released.
“It’s going to embarrass the hell out of those two,” she said.