Viral text posts are advancing the groundless claim that George Floyd’s arrest and death in Minneapolis were “staged” to incite “racial tensions.” But they offer no evidence to support that conspiracy theory.
Text posts of a nearly 1,000-word screed shared by thousands on Facebook are baselessly suggesting that the arrest and death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, were “staged.”
The posts have circulated in the wake of Floyd’s death on May 25. Floyd, a black man, was declared dead shortly after he was detained by police. A video of the arrest shows the 46-year-old repeatedly saying that he could not breathe as an officer, a white man, kneels on his neck.
Like many conspiracy theories, what follows is a long list of claims and unrelated events to argue that a secret plot with political motives is at play. But none of the evidence cited supports the contention that the “event” was “staged.”
The posts begin by suggesting “at the very least the ‘possibility'” that the death was a “filmed public execution of a black man by a white cop, with the purpose of creating racial tensions and driving a wedge in the growing group of anti deep state sentiment from comon people.”
It goes on to imply the case is tied to other events — including former Vice President Joe Biden’s controversial remark in which he said if black voters couldn’t choose between him and President Donald Trump, “You ain’t black” — with no factual backing to make those connections. It further ties the Floyd case to what it deems “the COVID-19 fear campaign” falling apart.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, dismissed the conspiracy theory in an email to us, saying there was “nothing staged.”
In a phone interview, Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami who studies conspiracy theories, told us that the theory “has a series of common tropes in it — and one of them is that these things can’t be a coincidence.”
It “appeals to people’s willingness to look for intentionality rather than to understand that sometimes things just happen,” he said. “As shocking as it might seem, we have to realize it’s the same stuff we see all the time” in such conspiracy theories.
One unsupported element in the posts suggests the filming of Floyd’s death was planned, claiming that the “only goal that there appeared to be was exactly what happened: ‘To be filmed brutally killing a black man’.”
But in reality, the viral, 10-minute video of Floyd’s arrest that sparked an outcry was filmed because a 17-year-old woman walking by the arrest noticed that Floyd couldn’t breathe and began recording.
“I was walking my cousin to the store and I just see him on the ground and I’m like what is going on? I pull my camera out, this man cannot … breathe at all,” Darnella Frazier said in a video the next day.
The posts also suggest “[t]here is substantial video evidence to arrest at least one officer now” but that there is “a political advantage not to!”
On May 29, however, as the posts were circulating, officials announced the arrest of Derek Chauvin, who was identified as the police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a press conference that Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The posts also cite the fact that “a fake Facebook page supposedly belonging to the officer” surfaced with a “picture of the cop with a red ballcap that says ‘Make America White Again.'”
It’s true that a since-deactivated Facebook profile under the name “Derek Chauvin” posted a photo of a man wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” hat — which went viral as users erroneously identified the photo as that of the officer. As we explained when debunking that claim, the person in the photo is actually a man known for creating fake accounts and deceiving people.
Another groundless claim in the posts is that George Soros, the billionaire known for funding liberal causes, is tied to the Minneapolis incident: “You can draw your own conclusions, but this appears to have all the earmarks of George Soros. Please open your eyes!!!!”
The posts also attempt to raise eyebrows by referencing the police car’s license plate: “FINALLY….‼️‼️ this entire scene plays out with the cop car and license plate that says ‘POLICE’. The plate was perfectly framed for maximum subliminal impact.”
As we’ve explained, though, many Minneapolis police cars use that license plate because, under Minnesota state law, police vehicles that are clearly marked are not required to display numbered license plates.
In short, there’s plenty of innuendo in the popular Facebook posts — but they offer no evidence for the outrageous claim that Floyd’s arrest and death were “staged.”
Fichera, Angelo. “Viral Photos Don’t Show Minneapolis Officer in Floyd Case.” FactCheck.org. 28 May 2020.
“Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.” Press release, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. 29 May 2020.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Minneapolis Police License Plate Doesn’t Raise a ‘False Flag.’” FactCheck.org. 29 May 2020.
Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. “County Attorney Mike Freeman to announce new developments in Floyd death.” Facebook Live video. 29 May 2020.
“Investigative Update on Critical Incident.” Press release, Minneapolis Police Department. 26 May 2020.
Kroll, Bob. President, Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Email to FactCheck.org. 29 May 2020.
Mannix, Andy. “What we know about Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, two of the officers caught on tape in the death of George Floyd.” Star Tribune. 26 May 2020.
NowThis Politics. “Woman Who Captured George Floyd Killing, Darnella Frazier, Returns To Scene.” Facebook. 27 May 2020.
Uscinski, Joseph. Associate professor of political science, University of Miami. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 29 May 2020.
Oprysko, Caitlin. “Clyburn says he ‘cringed’ at Biden’s ‘you ain’t black’ gaffe but reiterates support.” Politico. 26 May 2020.