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Protesters raise their hands on command from police as they are detained prior to arrest on May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis.  (AP) Protesters raise their hands on command from police as they are detained prior to arrest on May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis.  (AP)

Protesters raise their hands on command from police as they are detained prior to arrest on May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP)

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan June 5, 2020

"The Week in Fact-checking" compiles short summaries of our best work; the links will take you to our full reports. Want this report early and via email? Sign up here

This week: Debunking misinformation about protesters … A doctored Adolf Hitler photo … Antifa is not going into neighborhoods … Trump’s inaccurate attacks on the World Health Organization … No, zoo animals are not on the loose 

How a false claim about out-of-state protesters traveled from Minnesota officials to Trump, Pelosi

Five days after George Floyd died with an officer’s knee pressed on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, top Minnesota officials held a news conference to address the aftermath of Floyd’s death. They discussed both the peaceful protests and the looting the previous few nights.

At the news conference, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz blamed outsiders for the violence: "I think our best estimate right now that I heard is about 20% that are Minnesotans and about 80% are outside."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey echoed that assessment, saying there was a gradual shift from local peaceful protests to violent protesters "coming in largely from outside the city."

It turns out that wasn’t true; most of the protesters arrested were from the Minneapolis area. But the false claim spread quickly.

By early afternoon, Trump had tweeted Walz’s 80% statistic.

"80% of the RIOTERS in Minneapolis last night were from OUT OF STATE. They are harming businesses (especially African American small businesses), homes, and the community of good, hardworking Minneapolis residents who want peace, equality, and to provide for their families."

It wasn’t long before the statistic fell apart.

Within hours, local TV station KARE reported that Minneapolis-based police tallies of those arrested for rioting, unlawful assembly, and burglary-related crimes from May 29 to May 30 showed that 86% of those arrested listed Minnesota as their address. Arrestees in St. Paul broke down to 12 confirmed from Minnesota out of 18 arrested.

The real numbers forced officials to walk back their comments that evening.

That did make a dent in the social media claims, but the claim re-emerged in a prominent media outlet on Sunday morning: ABC’s "This Week."

In the interview, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "As my colleague from St. Paul has told me, 80% of the people who were arrested or taken into custody following what was happening there were from out of the area."

Pelosi’s office told PolitiFact that the interview had been pre-taped the previous day, after the official’s original statements but before the walkbacks.

"We apologize for repeating this information, which we found out post-interview to be inaccurate," said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi.

Louis Jacobson

Fact-checks of the week

When even elected officials struggle to speak accurately, you can bet that the misinformation online is much more extreme. Here is just a sampling of things we’ve fact-checked about the ongoing protests. 

"Piles of bricks are being staged in cities around the country, indicating riots are planned." - Mostly False

Some Facebook posts have used photos of bricks to make unproven claims about the connection between violence at protests and antifa, a broad coalition of anti-fascist, left-wing groups. Others allege the bricks prove that the violence has been pre-planned. While police in Kansas City said they suspect bricks are being stashed for nefarious purposes, there is no evidence that such a tactic is being widely used. Officials in several other cities have said there is no connection between footage of bricks and protests.

A photo shows Adolf Hitler holding a Bible like Donald Trump. - False

An image of Adolf Hitler was doctored so that it looks like he’s holding a book in a pose similar to one Trump took after walking from the White House to a nearby church and lifting a Bible. In the original Hitler photo, the German dictator is waving to supporters as they give him the Nazi salute. He’s not holding a Bible.

"Antifa is warning that tonight they're moving out of the cities - and into residential areas to 'take what's ours.'" - False

A Facebook post said "ANTIFA America" had declared the left-wing movement is moving protests to residential areas. There is no evidence to support that. Antifa is a broad, loosely affiliated coalition of left-wing anti-fascist activists. It has no leaders and generally works as autonomous local groups. We could find no tweets from local antifa cells or news reports about protests moving into residential areas. It is still unclear to what extent the Antifa movement is involved in demonstrations.

Officials in Washington, D.C., are "jamming all communications." - False

On June 1, #dcblackout trended on Twitter as protests raged in D.C. The hashtag was shared with posts claiming there was a communications blackout in the nation’s capital to quell unrest. Washington officials say there was never a blackout, and we found no evidence that there was. Experts and social media tools suggest that #dcblackout was initially spread by fake and hacked Twitter accounts, possibly as part of a coordinated disinformation campaign.

Knowing the facts has never been more important. Please consider donating to PolitiFact today. 

Fact-checking Donald Trump’s case against the World Health Organization, China

Donald Trump used China’s role in the coronavirus crisis to justify withdrawing from the World Health Organization. But some of his factual claims against WHO are either incorrect or exaggerated. 

  • He falsely accused WHO of ignoring research articles when the articles did not exist.

  • He ignored actions WHO took to alert the global public health community.

  • He assumed that WHO knew that China was censoring reports of the spread of the disease. There is no evidence to support that WHO knew of a cover-up.

Read our full report to review the evidence and see for yourself. 

In case you missed it: The death of George Floyd

Our story looked back at what we know about the events that led up to Floyd’s fatal encounter with the police and how he died. It’s the latest in a long series of fatal encounters between black men and white police.

Pants on Fire

Do you smell smoke? 

Here's your Pants on Fire fact-check of the week: 

"Zoo animals were released during protests in Chicago."

The zoo in Chicago said their animals were safe and accounted for. 

See what else we've rated Pants on Fire this week. 

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The week in fact-checking: George Floyd protests, Trump attacks WHO