White House deletes tweet claiming protective barrier outside of Jewish center was an “Antifa” setup

It shared a false video claiming Antifa had set up bricks for terror attacks after the claims were already debunked

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 5, 2020 12:22AM (EDT)

Protester with an ANTIFA flag draped over his shoulders during a rally (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Protester with an ANTIFA flag draped over his shoulders during a rally (Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The White House deleted a video claiming to show bricks set up by "Antifa and professional anarchists," which actually depicted a protective barrier set up outside a California Jewish center to prevent attacks.

Social media has been flooded with false reports of bricks, rocks and weapons being left near sites of protests over the death of George Floyd. While some on the left have falsely accused police of setting up the weapons, the White House and police have pushed a similarly-false narrative that "Antifa" activists and anarchists actually set up the weapons to stoke violence.

The White House on Wednesday tweeted a video showing metal cages filled with rocks to claim proof of Antifa terrorism.

"Antifa and professional anarchists are invading our communities, staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence," the White House tweeted. "These are acts of domestic terror. The victims are the peaceful protesters, the residents of these communities and the brave law enforcement standing watch."

The White House later deleted the tweet after the Chabad of Sherman Oaks in California pointed out that it had set up the cages outside its facility to protect the Jewish community from potential attacks.

"There were false pictures and videos going around today, claiming some bricks or rocks were placed at our center," a spokesperson for the facility wrote on its Facebook page. "Here is the truth: THESE ARE SECURITY BARRIERS and have been here for almost a year! Nevertheless to alleviate peoples concern that they may be vandalized and used by rioters, they were temporarily removed (as can be seen in this picture)."

The video was deleted, though not before it was viewed more than one million times across the White House's social media pages.

The video tweeted by the White House included several other instances purporting to show suspicious setups of bricks at protest sites. 

The White House published the video after BBC News, BuzzFeed News, Vice News and other all published investigations debunking the viral videos. They reported showing bricks which had been left from actual construction projects underway before the protests began.

New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea similarly came under fire for sharing a video of officers clearing plastic bins filled with rocks in a quiet residential area in Brooklyn far from any recent or planned protests.

"This is what our cops are up against: Organized looters, strategically placing caches of bricks & rocks at locations throughout NYC," Shea wrote.

But City Councilman Mark Treyger on Wednesday debunked the claim.

"This is in my district. I went to the site. This construction debris was left near a constriction site," he wrote. "There was no evidence of organized looting… last night that I'm aware of."

Other videos showing similar brick "setups" in Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts and California were also found to be near actual construction sites which predated the protests.

Officials have also been forced to debunk other viral rumors claiming Antifa plots. A police department in Idaho warned on Facebook of a rumor that "Antifa has sent a plane load of their people into Boise and three bus loads from Seattle into the rural areas" being completely untrue.

Twitter debunked a viral tweet shared by Donald Trump Jr. claiming that Antifa had plotted violence in residential areas. The social network said the fake Antifa account was created by a far-right white nationalist group.

While President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have sought to blame Antifa activists for violence around the protests, there has been little evidence to show involvement by people affiliated with the anti-fascist protest movement.

The FBI's own Washington field office said it found no evidence of Antifa involvement in protests in the city. But the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have warned that right-wing extremists were plotting to exploit the protests to spark violence.

As Trump blamed Antifa on Saturday for violence and dismissed claims by state officials that far-right extremists were trying to take advantage of the unrest, the FBI arrested three far-right extremists near the site of a protest in Las Vegas who allegedly had Molotov cocktails and explosives. The men, all of whom had military experience, were linked to the "boogaloo" movement, which prosecutors described as a "term used by extremists to signify coming Civil War and/or fall of civilization."

The group "discussed causing an incident to incite chaos and possibly a riot, in response to the death" of Floyd and sought to "create civil unrest and rioting throughout Las Vegas," prosecutors said.

The White House has yet to condemn the violent plot or post any videos about it, even though all three men were charged with domestic terrorism targeting peaceful protesters and law enforcement.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Aggregate Antifa Black Lives Matter Donald Trump George Floyd Politics William Barr