I’ve seen a few accounts of violence attributed to a backlash to the Zimmerman Verdict over the weekend. There have been protests; they have been large, they have been sometimes loud – but not violent.
There were the reports of rioting in Los Angeles, from the NBC news coverage there, supplemented by the LAPD.
At one point, protesters blocked Interstate 10 at Arlington Boulevard for more than 30 minutes. At another, a group broke off and walked into the W Hotel, causing some $15,000 in damage to the lobby, said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman.
Except that part about the $15,000 in damage, or protesters entering the hotel at all, was false. Some protesters did end up on the freeway, but they were not violent.
I saw this beautifully debunked by the Brad Blog. But I also called LA, and fact checked it for myself: I spoke with not only the spokesperson at the Hollywood / LA W Hotel, but also the PR person at the Westwood /LA W Hotel; just to be thorough.
Brad Blog had it right, NBC and the LAPD had it wrong. Other media/blogosphere sources are still circulating the false information, like Dave Weigel’s piece over at Slate. No horrible riots that did $15,000 worth of damage to a luxury hotel; it didn’t happen. But at least, even if Weigel got that part wrong, he debunked a few other claims of post-Zimmerman verdict violence.
Further, the much more limited damage that was reported to have happened – like a broken car window – ALSO turns out not to be from the protests that occurred in response to the Zimmerman verdict, but rather by unrelated teen vandalism that was by individuals who were not part of the protests, as reported by the Inquisitor.
Then there was the story, circulated by sources like Salon, that claimed there was an Hispanic man beaten by black teens yelling “This is for Trayvon” in Baltimore, Maryland…. except that the only source for that was a woman who posted it on Face Book. That was pretty thoroughly debunked by the Baltimore police investigation, as reported in the Baltimore Sun. To be clear, there was a violent incident; but it appears totally unrelated to Zimmerman verdict, and nothing relating to Trayvon Martin appears to have been said by anyone during it.
Then there was the video circulated rather widely, covered by BuzzFeed, that claimed to be of footage of rioting in Miami, that turned out to be from Vancouver, in 2011, over the Stanley Cup.
So, the next time you hear or see a report of this kind of violence, be skeptical; fact check it, or look for others who do. Because the reporting on this has been unusually bad for factual inaccuracy and just plain made up nonsense, circulating as fact.