Trigger Warning: Graphic Violence

A video of a protest demonstration is in circulation on social media, where someone can be seen pouring a flammable liquid from a bottle on a policeman. As the officer is set on fire, chaos ensues and a confrontation takes place among other policemen and a group of protesters. The video is being shared with the claim that Hamas supporters/ anti-Israel demonstrators had carried out the attack. Some users claimed the incident was from London, and some said it was from Italy.

X Blue user @rs_rajender shared the video with the caption: “They attempted to set an on-duty police officer on fire.. These #Hamas supporters are behaving worse than animals.. #HamasislSIS #Israel #HamasTerrorrists #Palestine #Gaza #Pakistan #PakistanGazaMarch” (Archive)

X (formerly Twitter) user Pranav Mishra @mishpranav had shared the video with the caption, “Anti Israel Anti Semitic Pro terrorrism protestors burn Police officer in London. Violent muslims also say chants ‘Kill All Jews’ ‘We want Sharia Law in England’ ‘Kill All Infidels’. All muslims terrorrists need to be deported from UK.” The account was later suspended.

X Blue user The Right Wing Guy @T_R_W_G also shared the video with the same claim but later deleted the video.

Another user, @BGatesIsaPyscho, who goes by the handle ‘Concerned Citizen’, claimed that the incident had occurred in Italy. (Archive)

Other X Blue users like @j0rgeaquino, @SherrideanA, @RealSpaniel1989 also shared the video with the same claim. (Archive 1, 2, 3)

Fact Check

We found an extended version of the video uploaded on YouTube by Reuters on June 10, 2020. This means that the video is at least three-year old. The clip that is in circulation is a mirrored version (i.e., the video is flipped horizontally) of this video and the viral part can be seen from 0:27 seconds.

The description says: “GRAPHIC CONTENT: A police officer was set on fire during protests against police abuse and Justice for Giovanni in Guadalajara.”

In the video we can see a building with the text ‘C. UNIVERSITARIO AZTECA’ on the left and ‘McDonalds’ on the right. We searched the location on Google Street View and found it to be the Plaza of the University of Guadalajara in Jalisco. Guadalajara is a metropolis in western Mexico and the capital of the state of Jalisco. A screenshot of the location from Google Maps street view is given below:

So, this confirms that the incident occurred in Guadalajara, western Mexico.

Next, a keyword search led us to a news report by The Guardian dated June 5, 2020, which mentioned the same Mexican city. It said, “… a man was found beaten to death hours after he was arrested by police officers for not wearing a face mask in public. Anti-police protests erupted on Thursday evening in Guadalajara, the country’s second-largest city. Protesters clashed with police officers outside the government palace, burning patrol vehicles and graffitiing the building. Videos showed the protesters breaking through the palace door. One protester poured a flammable liquid on the back of a motorcycle cop and lit the officer on fire, according to a video spread on social media by independent news outlet ZonaDocs. Police beat back the protesters with batons and shot tear gas at them.

We looked for more details about the alleged incident of police brutality. We found several news reports on the custodial death of Giovanni López, a 30-year-old bricklayer, who was arrested on May 4, 2020 in Guadalajara, for not wearing face mask during the COVID pandemic. A report by BBC News Mundo (previously known as the BBC Latin American Service) dated June 5, 2020 quotes Giovanni’s brother, Christian, saying how he was walking with Giovanni and their aunt without wearing the mask, which they were carrying in their hands, when the arrest took place. A video of the arrest was included in a news report by The Guardian which can be found here. A day later, Giovanni’s lifeless body was found at the Guadalajara Civil Hospital. BBC News Mundo, further writes that according to the local press, Giovanni López died from head trauma and injuries, including a gunshot wound in the leg. A study by Harvard International Review, shows that major protests occurred for several consecutive days, and “Giovanni Didn’t Die, the State Killed Him” was a sign commonly used by protesters.

We searched for the video uploaded by ZonaDocs and found it on their X timeline. The caption can be translated as “The escalation of violence continues in the streets of Guadalajara. Here is the moment when one of the police officers is set on fire; The arrests are occurring intensely. Coverage: @Mariomarlo” (Archive)

Thus, we can conclude that an old video from a protest demonstration from Mexico is being shared with a misleading claim that anti-Israel/ anti-Semitic/ Muslim protesters/ Hamas supporters have turned violent in London or Italy. The actual incident took place after the custodial death of Giovanni López in Mexico on May 4, 2020, where a protester sets a policeman ablaze. López had earlier been arrested for not wearing a mask during the COVID pandemic. The video is not related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas War in any way.

Shreyatama Datta is an intern at Alt News.

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