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Emily Venezky
By Emily Venezky June 2, 2020

'Riot manual' is misinformation from 2015

If Your Time is short

  • The image of a “riot manual” was first posted in 2015, to falsely accuse a Democrat super PAC of organizing a violent protest.

  • The actual protest on April 18, 2015, over the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore was not violent.

As Americans continue to protest George Floyd’s death, new false theories about how protestors are organized and funded continue to appear on social media.

A recent Facebook post showed the warped image of a page from a "riot manual," giving instructions for organized violence, and claimed, "A rioter accidentally dropped this! Oops!!" 

This post was flagged by Facebook as part of efforts to combat false news and information on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

We couldn’t find any evidence that this is from a real manual. We did find the images on meme sites that originally included 26 pages. It was created in 2015 to falsely blame a Democrat super PAC, Friends of Democracy, for violent protesting. 

The first page of the manual explains that the "Action Oversight Executive Committee" had chosen April 18, 2015, to "seize as much momentum as possible from current civil unrest in the BWI area." The document goes on to use code language and vague descriptions of contracts, payments, and how they will implement violent practices during a demonstration. 

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The manual appears to have been created to falsely blame a Democrat super PAC, Friends of Democracy, for violent protesting in 2015. Friends of Democracy was a Democrat super PAC created in 2012 by Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros, and David Donnelly, then the executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund. The Friends of Democracy and Public Campaign Action Fund merged to create Every Voice Action in 2014.

The "manual" refers to protests in Baltimore in April 2015 over Freddie Gray’s death. Gray was arrested for appearing to have a switchblade and then suffered from a spinal cord injury and died in police custody. Some of the protests in Baltimore did become violent, but the one this document talks about escalating into a riot was not.

Back then, NBC reported that protestors gathered in front of the Western District station, put their hands up and turned their backs to the police station. There was no complicated route like the one shown in the "riot manual," and there were only peaceful demonstrations.

To sum up, this "riot manual" was created in 2015 and doesn’t apply to the protests happening in 2020. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

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'Riot manual' is misinformation from 2015

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