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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke September 4, 2020

No, this isn’t a photo of CHAZ in Seattle

If Your Time is short

  • The photo shows the aftermath of a trash fire in Brooklyn, New York, in June, not Seattle. 

As Election Day nears, President Donald Trump has targeted the Pacific Northwest and tried to tie Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to demonstrations in Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore. 

On social media, some users are drawing similar connections, but the evidence they point to is flawed.

"Photo on the left: The aftermath of the ‘CHOP’ Zone’ in Seattle, WA. July 2020," reads the description of an image showing a street littered with debris.  

"Photo on the right: The aftermath of Sturgis, SD after 460,000 bikers. August 2020," the post says about another image showing a tidy intersection. 

The photo that claims to be Seattle isn’t Seattle, though. It’s Brooklyn. 

This 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.) 

Featured Fact-check

We did a reverse image search for the photo that the Facebook post says is the ‘CHOP Zone,’ referring to the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, which was also known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ. Protesters occupied several blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Police cleared the area in July

The  search led us to an Aug. 13 post on the neighborhood blog Greenpointers, which reports on news in the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. 

The headline: "How a photo of trash in Greenpoint became a photo of Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone.’" 

A Brooklyn resident brought the photo to Greenpointers’ attention after noticing what he thought was a sign for a local parking garage, according to the post. A video in the post taken by another Brooklyn resident shows the scene captured in the Facebook image. The trash sprawled across the street resulted from a lit, discarded cigarette that set a pile of trash bags on fire on June 2. 

We couldn’t find the original image that the Facebook post describes as Sturgis, S.D., which hosted a motorcycle rally in August. But as Reuters points out in its fact-check of a similar post, it appears to be a screenshot of a live feed of the intersection where Junction Avenue and Main Street meet in the city. We don’t know when the screenshot was taken. 

Regardless, this Facebook post misuses a photo of the aftermath of a trash fire in Brooklyn to claim that Seattle protesters were responsible for the mess. That’s wrong. 

We rate this post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Aug. 30, 2020

CNN, Fact check: ‘We are not ablaze,’ Portland fire department says after Trump falsely claims ‘entire city’ is on fire, Sept. 1, 2020

Reuters, Seattle police clear protest zone after flares of violence, July 1, 2020

Greenpointers, How a photo of trash in Greenpoint became a photo of Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone,’ Aug. 13, 2020

Greenpointers Instagram post, June 2, 2020

Live view of Junction & Main St from Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, visited Sept. 2, 2020


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No, this isn’t a photo of CHAZ in Seattle

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