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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 7, 2020

Older man reportedly struck at demonstration but he was not ‘wearing oxygen’

If Your Time is short

  • The incident occurred during dueling demonstrations for and against preserving the King Louis IX statue in St. Louis, viewed by some as a symbol of racism.

  • A younger Black man had a physical confrontation with an older white man, but it’s not clear what led to the attack.

  • There’s no evidence the white man was “wearing oxygen.”

A photograph widely shared on Facebook shows three young Black men grappling with an older white man.

"Heres your BLM attacking a elderly man wearing oxygen ..and it takes 3 of them..but you will not see this on News outlets..," reads a June 29 Facebook post.

It included this photo:

 

 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

An older man was punched at a St. Louis demonstration where people chanted against racism and carried "Black Lives Matter" signs, though it’s unclear what led to the scuffle. 

The older man was wearing a face mask around his neck, according to pictures taken at the scene; he was not "wearing oxygen."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen, who captured the image, told PolitiFact in an email that he didn’t see oxygen on the man. "No oxygen on him," he said. "No oxygen on anyone at the protest that I noticed." Other images from the protest show clearly the man is wearing a face mask, sometimes pulled down, not oxygen tubes.

The photo shown in the Facebook post comes from the Post-Dispatch, which on June 27 covered what were two clashing demonstrations involving a statue of King Louis IX of France, the city’s namesake, in Forest Park. More than 200 people gathered at the site, some calling for the statue’s removal and others offering public prayers that it remain standing. About a dozen police officers attempted to form a line between the two sides, the newspaper reported.

Featured Fact-check

Though the news article does not specifically describe the incident cited in the Facebook post, it includes several photos from the apparent altercation between the white man and the three Black men. The captions on those photos indicate the following:

  • A Black man protesting the statue encourages the white man "to leave the area as those opposing the statue of King Louis IX asked Catholics supporters to leave during a rally."

  • The white man is taunted by statue protesters and "goes after another man after being doused with a pink liquid."

  • "One protester tries to move" the white man "out of the way while another punches him."

Reuters fact-checked another claim related to the photograph and reported that a Reuters photographer at the scene "said there was no indication" the white man was part of the Catholic contingent praying at the base of the statue.  

"The man appeared and approached protesters near the conclusion of the gathering as people were dispersing," the article said.

St. Louis police told PolitiFact it received only one report from the demonstrations, involving a 34-year-old white man saying he was slapped several times. The suspect is listed as a 37-year-old Black man.

While not commenting specifically on the incident captured in these photos, the local prosecutor said blows thrown at the protest are under investigation for possible criminal charges, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Black Lives Matter organization did not reply to our requests for information. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed that Black Lives Matter demonstrators attacked an "elderly man wearing oxygen." 

An older white man was in an altercation with a younger Black man at a demonstration in St. Louis that showed support for Black Lives Matter, according to photos and captions recorded by news outlets. There is no evidence the white man was "wearing oxygen."

We rate the post Half True.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (archived here), June 29, 2020

Reuters, "Fact check: Man shown being attacked in St. Louis was not part of group of praying Catholics," July 2, 2020

Snopes, "Were Catholics Attacked by Black Lives Matter Protesters in St. Louis?", July 2, 2020

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Should he stay or go? Protesters clash over statue of St. Louis’ namesake," June 28, 2020

Email, Michelle Woodling, public information officer, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, July 4, 2020

Email, St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen, July 6, 2020

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Older man reportedly struck at demonstration but he was not ‘wearing oxygen’

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