Misleading: Popular photo of USSR flag-waving protestors not related to this year’s Black Lives Matter movement

Sophie Mak
Aug 7 · 4 min read
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By Sophie Mak

A photo showing black-clad and masked protestors waving a Soviet Union flag has circulated widely on Twitter in recent months. It is also frequently used by U.S. right-wing politicians and media publications, often with a claim that it was taken in Portland, Oregon during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in May 2020.

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On social media, the image frequently appears alongside another picture that shows Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters waving American flags, implying that the anti-government movement in Hong Kong supports the U.S. while the protesters in the U.S. support communism.

All these claims are misleading.

Two-year-old photo

A reverse image search shows the Portland photo is not new. It was first posted on Twitter on Oct. 14, 2018, by Andy Ngo, an editor for the conservative Canadian online magazine The Post Millennial.

The original image shows an allegedly Antifa-affiliated counter-rally two years ago in memory of Patrick Kimmons, an African-American man who was fatally shot by the Portland police in late September 2018, and in “resistance” to the Flash March for Law and Order event organized by the U.S. far-right group Patriot Prayer.

Annie Lab tried to gather other images from the event as Ngo’s reputation as a journalist has been questioned by several media outlets such as the New York Times, Vox and Rolling Stone.

One video clip posted on Twitter shows a direct confrontation between the two parties while another shows a shouting match between them, corroborating the events shown in the image. But the symbolic flag with the hammer, sickle and star is visible in only one of the clips.

Other images and footage of the event examined for this story did not show the Soviet Union flag.

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Video (left) showing a lady in a dark hoodie and glasses standing next to a “KILLER” sign attached to a light pole, matching what is shown on Ngo’s image (right)

Location verified

Annie Lab was also able to confirm the exact location of the event. The brawl took place at the intersection of SW 4th Avenue and SW Harvey Milk Street.

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The number “080241” and the word “PACIFIC” are visible in the video clip
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The location details of the 080241 billboard found on the Pacific Outdoor Advertising website, including location coordinates
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The view of the street from another angle using Google Maps (left) is identical to where the video was shot (right)

Image used out of context

Although the photo is almost two years old, lately it has been featured by U.S. conservative publications such as The Citizen Daily and The Denver Herald that wrongly claim it shows this May’s protest.

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U.S. Republican politicians such as Solomon Yue and their supporters also shared the picture this year during the height of the BLM protests, labelling the BLM protestors “commie rioters,” “thugs” and “terrorists.”

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On July 24, James Woods, an American actor known for his outspoken conservative political stance, who has more than two million Twitter followers, shared the viral picture juxtaposed against the Hong Kong protest photo. The tweet has since gained more than 103,000 likes and 44,000 retweets.

The Hong Kong photo was taken on Sept. 8, 2019, during a march to the U.S. consulate. Protesters called on U.S. officials to support and pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Woods’ post was later retweeted by U.S. Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who alluded to the idea that the BLM supporters are “communists” who “always oppose liberty.”

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Solomon Yue shared the same photo on July 26, calling Hong Kong protesters “freedom fighters” while labelling American protesters “Antifa commie fascists.” He also wrongly claimed the image was taken during last year’s massive anti-extradition bill protests when more than one million people took to the streets on two occasions in June.

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Disclaimer: This is a student work. Although JMSC faculty members have done everything possible to verify its accuracy, we cannot guarantee there are no mistakes. If you notice an error or have any questions, please email us at contact@annieasia.org.

annie lab

Fact-checking project @ Journalism & Media Studies Centre…

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