Were bricks planted at protests by police? Probably not

  • As protests take place all over the United States, social media users are posting photos of bricks near demonstration sites, claiming that the materials were planted in order to entrap protestors or escalate potential violence. 
  • Posts on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok feature bricks located in cities around the country, from New York to Phoenix to San Francisco. 
  • Reports from construction crews, news organizations, and police departments, however, suggest that many of these claims are false.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As protests take place around the United States following the killing of George Floyd in police custody, social media users are posting photos of bricks located near sites of demonstrations — with some suggesting that the construction materials have been planted to by law enforcement to entrap protestors, and others claiming that the bricks have been placed by protestors with the intention of escalating them to riots. Viral posts on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok feature pallets of bricks that people say have “suspiciously appeared” amid protests.  Many of these claims, however, have proven to be false, with police departments, construction crews, news organizations, and locals confirming that many of the social media famous bricks had been connected to ongoing construction projects or were present well before protests began. 

On May 30, a Twitter user uploaded a video of a protest in Fayetteville, North Carolina — including footage of a pile of bricks sitting on the sidewalk. 

–Cheryl ? ??? (@realCthepower)

May 31, 2020

Behind the camera, someone can be heard commenting that the “random-ass bricks” did not appear to be accompanied by ongoing construction. 

The implication of the video was that they were placed there for protesters.  The clip received some attention, racking up over 700,000 views in under a week. Ice T, who has been vocal about ongoing protests with his online following, even tweeted that the situation “looks like a setup.”

A YouTube video discovered by BBC News, however, showed that the bricks had been located in the Hay Street area since May 24 — before the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. The outlet also found a 130-page city document citing the street as one location due for “treatments.” 

–Shayan Sardarizadeh (@Shayan86)

June 2, 2020

On May 31, a Twitter user posted a photo of bricks located outside the courthouse in Fort Myers, Florida, writing that local protests had been “set up.”

“Don’t fall into their trap,” the tweet continued. 

–Tasteofwang (@Tasteofwang1)

May 31, 2020

City officials, however, told NBC that the bricks were being stored there “temporarily” during the installation of a fiber optic cable.  “The bricks have been here for a long time,” Carlos Cavenago, who works in downtown Fort Myers, told NBC. “I first noticed them when they started repairing them along the sidewalk, and it’s a sad coincidence that there is rioting and people noticed the pile of bricks but I’ve been seeing them for a while.”

The bricks have since been removed. 

On June 1, several social media users reported that pallets of bricks were being “planted” in Frisco, Texas near protests.

–DESERT-WXLF (@DESERTWXLF)

June 1, 2020

The bricks featured in one tweet near the Plano Parkway, BuzzFeed News reported, were part of a construction project repairing the sidewalk under the highway. The pallets were eventually covered up by construction crews, according to another Twitter user who posted an updated photo from the location.  

–?visurant?? (@VisurantViz)

June 1, 2020

As social media users continued to report piles of bricks they found suspicious, the Frisco Police investigated and clarified via Twitter that pallets had been a part of a Homeowner’s Association construction project. 

–Frisco Police (@FriscoPD)

June 1, 2020

“When the calls came in and social media posts were being made about bricks, the Frisco Police Department immediately conducted an investigation and discovered the bricks were part of an ongoing HOA project,” a spokesperson confirmed to Insider. “With permission from the HOA, we moved the bricks temporarily as a precaution.”

A YouTube video from June 1, referencing “Antifa terrorism” in its title, shows crates of stones lining a sidewalk in Sherman Oaks California — and the video’s narrator suggested that the crates didn’t “look right.”

[embedded content]
“Right at a bus stop: f—— crates of f—— bricks,” the narrator can be heard saying in the video. “That don’t look right to me.”

The stones in the video, in actuality, are security barriers installed to protect a Jewish community center.  “To all our concerned neighbors and friends, there were false pictures and videos going around today, claiming some bricks or rocks were placed at our center,” Chabad of Sherman Oaks wrote in a Facebook post addressing the video. “Here is the truth: THESE ARE SECURITY BARRIERS and have been here for almost a year!” To alleviate concerns of violence and vandalization amid protests, the post explained, the barriers were temporarily removed. 

On June 1, a popular Instagram account posted a photo of bricks in Dallas, writing that the government was responsible for planting the pallets to entrap protestors.

“FOR ALL THE PEOPLE PROTESTING, SO NOT PICK UP THE BRICKS, THE GOVERNMENT IS TRYNA SET EVERYONE UP,” the first sentence of the caption reads.

In just three days, the photo racked up over 300,000 likes.  The Instagram user behind the @swagrman account told Insider that they uploaded the photo in hopes of “protecting all the people from getting hurt at the protest.”  NBC News producer Lorand Bodo investigated further and discovered the bricks’ location outside a Tom Thumb supermarket in Dallas.

A Google Street View image, he reported, suggested that the bricks had been there for months — in close proximity to a construction site. 

–Lorand Bodo (@LorandBodo)

June 2, 2020

The photo’s original poster, however, remains unconvinced by reports that the bricks were not planted and says they’re highly distrustful of media narratives.  “I can’t trust anyone,” the told Insider. “I’m just glad that we live in a world where we can film everything now.”

Photos of the bricks in Dallas have even become the subject of online conspiracy theories claiming that they’re connected to Berkshire Hathaway and public figures like Bill Gates. 

Several social media posts have insinuated that the bricks in the photo were being dropped off by ACME Brick company, which was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2001. Bill Gates, on the company’s board of directors, and Warren Buffet, who is the chairman and CEO of the company are frequently the subject of baseless conspiracy theories given their money and power, and Gates’ connection to Jeffrey Epstein. 

Bodo’s investigation for NBC, however, determined that the bricks were in the process of being removed rather than dropped off.

–Elyse (@ElyseCane)

June 1, 2020

–Tribunal Watch (@tribunal_watch)

June 2, 2020

A widely circulated video from Boston, which first appeared on Twitter, shows law enforcement unloading bricks from a truck and claims that officers were attempting to interfere with protests.

“They’re collecting all those bricks so that the protestors don’t f—— use ’em, dude,” one person can be heard saying in the video. “That, or they’re doing that for undercover police officers that are getting involved in the protests so that they have an excuse to beat the s— out of people.” The law enforcement officers shown in the video, viewers later learned, were affiliated with the Northeastern University Police Department. In a series of Tweets, the NUPD clarified that the bricks had been removed from a damaged sidewalk after posing a hazard to pedestrians. 

–NU Police Department (@northeasternpd)

June 2, 2020

–NU Police Department (@northeasternpd)

June 2, 2020

A Google street view of Tremont and Coventry streets from 2019, the AP reported, showed bricks missing from the sidewalk in that location. 

The original Twitter user who posted the photo, BuzzFeed reported, deleted the video, saying that she’d received “direct harassment” and that she was “not interested in spreading misinformation.” The video, however, has continued to circulate on TikTok, where it’s racked up 2 million views. 

On June 1, one Twitter user reported “mysterious brick placing” in San Francisco “in an attempt to escalate protests.”

The tweet, which tagged San Francisco Mayor London Breed, featured a video of several pallets of bricks lining the sidewalk. 

–Lex (@lextayham)

June 2, 2020

San Francisco Police responded to the tweet, stating that the pallets had been “affiliated with a construction site” and that police had contacted the contractor to have them removed from the street. 

–San Francisco Police (@SFPD)

June 2, 2020

On June 3, BuzzFeed reported, one Twitter user responded to a tweet about police “setting up bricks” with a photo of bricks placed on Van Buren Ave. in downtown Phoenix.

The Twitter user clarified that she did not see the bricks placed, but was “pretty sure” they hadn’t been there previously. 

–smoothie bitch (@Mack_daddi)

June 3, 2020

According to a Google Streetview image, BuzzFeed reported, the bricks had been located there as early as February of 2020.  

June 3, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea reposted a video of an officer removing bins filled with rocks and accused protestors of “strategically placing” bricks and stones around the city. 

“This is what our cops are up against,” Shea captioned the video. Organized looters, strategically placing caches of bricks & rocks at locations throughout NYC.”

The original video posted to Twitter attributed the stones to Antifa, accompanied by the caption, “ANTIFA is way more organized than politicians pretend.”

–Commissioner Shea (@NYPDShea)

June 3, 2020

“In terms of the tweet today, unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident. That’s the lastest,” Shea said in a press availability later that morning. “That was two locations — one was in Brooklyn, one was in Queens — where pre-staged bricks are being placed and then transported to quote-unquote peaceful protests, which are peaceful protests,  but then used by that criminal group within to sell fear.” Shea went on to say that construction sites in Manhattan had been burglarized and many were missing bricks.

VICE later reported that the video was taken on a street corner in South Brooklyn — a location where no protests had taken place.  Mark Treyger, a New York City councilman responded to Shea’s tweet, saying that the video, which took place in his district, showed “debris” left from a construction site.  “There was no evidence of organized looting on X last night that I’m aware of,” he wrote. 

–Mark Treyger (@MarkTreyger718)

June 3, 2020

Read more:

Photos show how the world is demanding justice for George Floyd at global Black Lives Matter protests

More than 10,000 people have been arrested in anti-police-brutality protests across the US since George Floyd’s death

How tear gas and pepper spray affect the body, and what to do if you’ve been hit

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