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Viral video shows adult members of the Georgia National Guard, not a ‘child militia’

May 30, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Atlanta has deployed a “child militia,” equipped with riot shields and batons, outside Lenox Square shopping mall.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The National Guard in Georgia told The Associated Press that the people shown in the video are adult members of the Guard, not a “child militia.” A spokeswoman noted that their regulations require members to be 18 years of age or older, or 17 with parent’s consent.

THE FACTS: On Saturday, video circulated on Twitter showing National Guard members at night holding riot shields while standing outside a department store at Lenox Square, a shopping mall in the Buckhead district of Atlanta. The video emerged as protests broke out in the city.

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The video was picked up on social media and circulated with false information: “Atlanta has deployed a child militia at Lenox Mall fitted with riot shields and batons...,” one user, who posted the video, falsely claimed on Twitter. The video soon went viral, and was viewed over nine million times.

“It appears the state of Georgia, or someone with access to uniforms and guns, has deployed child soldiers to confront protesters in Atlanta. This is child abuse. Whoever is responsible must be held to account,” another user falsely claimed on Twitter.

The National Guard in Georgia confirmed to the AP that the people in the video were not underage.

“The rumors of underage Georgia Guardsmen are false,” Pam Stauffer, a public affairs officer with the Georgia National Guard, told the AP in an email.

She said the four people captured in the video outside the mall were “all of eligible age to join.”

“To become a service member in the Georgia National Guard you are required to be of legal age and that is 18 years old (17 with parents consent),” the National Guard in Georgia posted on their official Twitter account on May 30. “The rumors of us having child Soldiers to assist local law enforcement in protecting lives and property is false.”

The Atlanta Police Department also confirmed to The Associated Press that the video “depicts adult members of the Georgia National Guard.”

The video was shared widely portraying the members as children, leading to claims criticizing the use of children and leading to the trending hashtag “HitlerYouth.”

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted on Saturday that up to 500 members of the Guard would be deployed immediately “to protect people & property in Atlanta.” Some demonstrators smashed police cars, while hundreds of protesters confronted police outside of CNN’s headquarters in downtown Atlanta.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536