Trump Campaign Ads Mislead Viewers About Black Protesters Who Stopped Violence

Through deceptive editing, two Trump campaign ads falsely portray law-abiding Black Lives Matter protesters who acted to prevent violence as dangerous thugs.

Demonstrators hold signs as they protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020. - Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities after five consecutive nights of protests over racism and police brutality that boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country. The death Monday of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited this latest wave of outrage in the US over law enforcement's repeated use of lethal force against African Americans -- this one like others before captured on cellphone video. (Photo by Samuel Corum / AFP) (Photo by SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters demanded justice for George Floyd in Washington, D.C. on May 31. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images

Through deceptive editing, two recent campaign ads for President Donald Trump falsely portray law-abiding Black Lives Matter protesters who acted to prevent violence as dangerous thugs plotting to “unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

The Trump campaign ads mislead viewers by distorting the meaning of video recorded during a protest in Washington, D.C. on May 31 by Safvan Allahverdi, a reporter for Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.

As Allahverdi explained in a Twitter caption for his 92-second clip, the incident he caught on camera that day showed black protesters taking it upon themselves to head off trouble, by tackling and disarming a white man clad in black who was using a hammer to break up pieces of the sidewalk into potential projectiles.

After they subdued the man, the group of mainly black protesters dragged him to a line of police officers and insisted that he be arrested.

Ten days later, however, the Trump campaign released an ad that used images from the news footage — of the man hammering the pavement and part of the scuffle after he was tackled — to offer voters a glimpse of the “chaos in the streets” former Vice President Joe Biden would supposedly permit by failing “to stand up to the radical leftists fighting to defund and abolish the police.”


A screenshot from a June 10 campaign ad for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, via YouTube

The ad, which superimposed video of Biden kneeling at a church in Delaware last month on to the snippets from Allahverdi’s footage, is based on a pair of lies: that the protesters who tackled the man were bent on violence and that Biden, who had already stated, “I don’t support defunding the police,” would enable their reign of terror.

Allahverdi, who said later that the demonstration that afternoon had “started as one of the most peaceful protests I’ve ever seen,” told me in a direct message that the Trump campaign had not asked him for permission to use his footage.

Apparently emboldened by getting away with this gross distortion of the truth once, the Trump campaign misused the same video a second time in another ad released last week. In the second ad, which offers a vision of a future world in which the police have been abolished — and calling 911 only gets you the recording: “Due to defunding of the police department, we’re sorry, but no one is here to take your call” — the footage of the man breaking up the pavement and being tackled appears as a caller to the police emergency line hears the automated instruction, “to report a murder, press 2.”

Dave Weigel of The Washington Post was the first to report the misleading use of Allahverdi’s footage in the most recent ad, which suggests, absurdly, that wait times for emergency response to incidents of murder or rape would be 5 days “in Joe Biden’s America.”

The new ad, which places the incident in Washington alongside video of arson in Minneapolis, and images of looting and vandalism, also distorts the meaning of another clip recorded during the recent protests.

In a section of the ad where the 911 caller hears, “If you’re calling to report a rape, please press 1,” the images that appear on-screen show two New York police officers running through a crowd of protesters. That footage appears to have been recorded just above East 14th Street in New York’s Union Square, where, on May 28, the police, including those wearing the distinctive NYPD bike outfit seen in the ad, were caught on camera from multiple angles behaving aggressively and using excessive force to arrest dozens of protesters for civil disobedience as they demanded justice for George Floyd.

The Trump campaign’s choice of footage that appears to have been shot that day is baffling because it shows officers charging into the crowd of demonstrators, offering an image of the overly aggressive policing that had led to calls to reduce police funding rather than a vision of an America on the brink of descending into anarchy without the police.

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