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The failure to indict the NYPD officer who put unarmed man Eric Garner in a chokehold in Jul. 2014, leading to his death, has stoked fury across the nation. Protests and vigils have been held, talk show hosts have railed against the decision, and politicians have become embroiled in intense debate.
Now, a video is circulating on social media that threatens to enflame tensions even further: A fully-compliant man being placed in an aggressive chokehold by a police officer at a New York protest over Eric Garner’s death.
“A kid was just choked out by the NYPD at the Eric Garner ‘I can’t breathe’ protest happening RIGHT NOW,” says a tumblr note by user krsx10, which has collected more than 61,000 notes in just a few hours.
Only problem? It’s almost certainly not real.
For starters, the video originates with entertainment site The Shade Room, and gives no indication that it was taken at an Eric Garner protest. It’s tagged with #policebrutality, #EricGarner and #mikebrown—but the description says only that “This man was handcuffed and compliant. However he was still put in a chokehold by a Police Officer. If we have video evidence like this, it makes you wonder if forcing Officers to wear camera on their uniforms will be effective?”
“We did not record the video. An anonymous source that claimed to have recorded it during the protests sent the video to us,” a spokesperson from The Shade Room told the Daily Dot in an email. “Since the source is anonymous we can’t confirm it was during the Eric garner protest. However, we haven’t been able to find this video anywhere on the Internet. “
In short, although it’s a topical video, and uploaded recently, there’s nothing to suggest it was actually taken at a New York protest.
A closer look at the video raises further suspicions. This week, the weather has been hovering around 39 degrees Fahrenheit in New York—not exactly shorts weather. Yet multiple people in the video have their legs out, and none appear to be wearing the coats you’d expect at an evening protest in December.
Besides a few calls at the end of the video, the crowd is almost indifferent to the officer’s actions—which is remarkable, if not downright unbelievable, if they really are there to protest the illegal use of chokeholds by law enforcement.
Other members of the crowd walk around holding green glass bottles and cups: Drinks better suited to a ball game than a political protest. Movement of the crowd is also random and uncoordinated, moving in all directions—rather than the focused flow that’s typically seen at demonstrations (and which law enforcement encourages, to keep crowds moving).
It’s difficult to tell whether the video itself is fake: It could be staged, or it could well be a genuine example of overzealous use of force by law enforcement. But it’s currently clearly being shared under false pretense, dating from months ago (at least), and filmed under very different circumstances than people are being led to believe.
Krsx10 did not responded to a request for comment at press time.
Update 12pm ET, Dec. 4: The video isn’t faked—but it’s not from New York, nor does it have anything to do with an Eric Garner protest. It originates from a Giants game in San Francisco in April 2014, reports Busted Coverage. So while the cop’s actions are definitely questionable, consider the Eric Garner protest rumor throughly debunked.
Illustration by Max Fleishman
Rob Price is a technology and politics reporter who served as the U.K.-based morning editor for the Daily Dot until 2014. He now works as the news editor for Business Insider, and his work has appeared in Vice, Slate, the Washington Post, and the Independent.