Fact check: Meme inaccurately portrays police action at New York BLM protest




  • In Business
  • 2021-01-13 21:22:20Z
  • By USA TODAY

The claim: Police helped pro-Trump Capitol demonstrator and kicked in the head of a BLM bystander

Since the Jan. 6 Capitol attack many Americans are highlighting anti-racism protests in 2020 to question whether there is a double standard in the way police have responded to different demonstrators. One such meme is zeroing in on police treatment of a Capitol trespasser and anti-racism demonstrator Martin Gugino to offer a comparison.

"Watching police holding the hands of an elderly Trump terrorist helping guide her down the stairs of the Capitol one at time and remembering footage of the old man bystander who had his head kicked in by police at BLM protest," reads the meme The Other 98% shared and later removed.

The meme includes side-by-side images of police escorting a woman down the Capitol building steps during the Jan. 6 riot and Gugino lying injured on the pavement after police shoved him at an anti-racism protest in June. The meme attributes the statement to Twitter user Carly Kimmel.

More: Fact check: Image of 'Simpsons' character doctored to mimic Capitol riot participant

The Other 98% has since removed the meme and its executive director and cofounder John Sellers responded to USA TODAY in an email.

"Of course you are correct that police didn't literally kick his head in (which is a figure of speech). If they had kicked his head in he would be dead now," wrote Sellers. "What police actually did is push him down, fracture his skull, and then offer him zero assistance as they marched by him in lock step."

The meme is still circulating on other social media accounts.

Kimmel tweeted the message on Jan. 6. Her tweet went viral, receiving nearly 50,000 retweets, more than 900 quote tweets and more than 200,000 likes.

Kimmel did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.

More: Fact check: Video shows Trump family in tent before Jan. 6 rally

Police escort Trump supporter down Capitol stairs

Media coverage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot captured the moment a police officer helped a woman down the Capitol steps. The woman wore a tan coat and Trump hat. The officer, dressed in riot gear, held a shield in one hand and the woman's hand in another. It is unclear why the officer escorted her.

Police officers in riot gear monitor protesters who are gathering at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Police officers in riot gear monitor protesters who are gathering at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.  

Atlanta NBC-affiliate television station WXIA-TV posted to YouTube a video of the incident filmed from another angle.

Social media users, including comedian Leslie Jones, have since posted videos of a TV of what appears to be CNN coverage of the incident.

The identities of the officer and woman involved are unknown.

USA TODAY could find no evidence that police then aided other demonstrators down the stairs.

More: Fact check: False claim about pardons for those involved in Capitol riot

Police shoved elderly anti-racism protester

A 75-year-old Amherst, New York, resident became an unexpected focal point of the 2020 protest movement against police brutality in early June. Martin Gugino was attending an anti-racism protest in Buffalo on June 4 when he was pushed to the ground by a Buffalo police officer. Bystanders' videos of the incident went viral soon after.

Video showed Gugino approach a line of police officers in riot gear, get pushed backward, fall to the ground and then lie on the pavement as blood pooled under his head. Police could be heard saying, "He's bleeding out of his ear" in the video.

Bystanders told USA TODAY Network paper Democrat and Chronicle that police then called for medical help, which arrived within minutes.

Gugino spent a month in the hospital recovering from a brain injury and fractured skull.

The two officers responsible, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, were temporarily suspended without pay and eventually charged with assault.

Video of the incident shows police never kicked Gugino in the head as the meme claims.

More: Fact check: Video shows Trump family in tent before Jan. 6 rally

Martin Gugino, 75, was pushed by Buffalo police officers in the aftermath of a rally in Buffalo on June 4.
Martin Gugino, 75, was pushed by Buffalo police officers in the aftermath of a rally in Buffalo on June 4.  

Our ruling: Partly False

We rate the claim that police both guided trespassing Trump supporters down the Capitol stairs and "kicked in" the head of an elderly BLM protest bystander as PARTLY FALSE because much, but not all, of the claim is supported by our research. It is true that media coverage shows a police officer did help one pro-Trump demonstrator down the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6. And officers in Buffalo, New York, have been charged with assault after shoving an elderly anti-racism protester, causing a head injury, at a June 4 event.. But it is false to describe what happened to Martin Gugino at a Black Lives Matter protest as having "his head kicked in by police."

Our Fact Check Sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Inaccuracies in comparison between BLM and Capitol attack

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