A wave of images and video showing piles of bricks lining urban streets amid the ongoing US protests, sporadically appearing on social media streams, have raised alarm bells that there may be a sinister motive behind their placement in recent days.
A conspiracy theory gaining traction online is that the bricks have been purposely left on roadsides to incite riots as protesters take to the streets of dozens of US cities fighting for an end to racial inequality and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The White House even suggested Antifa, the group of anti-fascism activists President Donald Trump has vowed to crack down on, were directly involved in depositing brick piles, in now-deleted social media posts on Wednesday (local time).
“Antifa and professional anarchists are invading our communities, staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence,” the posts on Facebook and Twitter read.
They were accompanied by video of brick piles found in various US cities.
Yet there is no firm evidence to suggest that there is any wrongdoing by those responsible for the piles of bricks seen on some US streets.
Social media has fuelled such speculation and in turn led to a wave of misinformation spreading across sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
In the video shared by the White House there was footage of rocks contained in wire mesh. A post on Facebook claimed the rocks appeared “mysteriously” on Ventura Boulevard in LA.
“These kind of drop offs are repeated all-over the country with brick pallets.” the post read, with over 2,500 shares.
It turns out, however, they have been in place for 12 months and act as a barrier to a synagogue.
“Those are barriers. They’ve been there for about a year. They are mounted to the ground,” Rabbi Mendel Lipskier, of Chabad of Sherman Oaks told The Associated Press.
Police forces debunk social media claims
One video tweeted to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, showing at least half a dozen pallets placed several metres apart along a street, prompted questions as to what will be done to prevent attempts to escalate protests.
Yet San Fransisco Police responded to the video saying the pallets were linked to a construction site and the contractor had been contacted to remove the bricks.
In a similar case in Frisco, Texas, a local police sergeant has thrown cold water over suggestions bricks were placed in streets for a march on Monday.
An online video claimed the bricks appeared “all of a sudden” on the protest’s route.
“You wanna tell me this is not planned and organised now?” the post asked.
Yet Frisco police sergeant Evan Mattei told The Associated Press that the packaged block of bricks was about a 10-minute walk from where the protesters would be marching.
They were left there for a homeowners association construction project, he said.
“Our department has no intelligence to suggest that any bricks have been placed on this specific route in advance of this protest for violent purposes,” he added.
One of the less plausible theories is that police have left the bricks for undercover officers to utilise and discredit protests, Business Insider reported.
One video from Boston to fuel such a conspiracy shows police officers removing bricks from a police vehicle at a university.
The video has been viewed more than 3 million times and has prompted comment suggesting police are involved in the bricks appearing in streets.
However Northeastern Police Department released a statement to reveal the video was captured during a response to a damaged walkway which had become a hazard to pedestrians.
“To prevent injuries to pedestrians, the officers collected the bricks and returned them to NUPD headquarters, where they immediately notified the City of Boston of a need for repair to the sidewalk and to request that the city collect the broken and damaged bricks,” the statement said.
Other videos have appeared from Fayetteville, North Carolina showing bricks near protests despite no signs of a construction site.
However there is photographic evidence that reveals the bricks were in the same location as early as May 24, a week prior to protests and a day before Floyd’s death, the BBC reported.
And in one of the more wild claims, images of bricks scattered across a busy urban road were said to originate from Hong Kong protests last year.
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