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Photo of a children’s train being driven down a street is from 2014 protests in Ferguson

May 29, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: “Looters” steal children’s ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ mall train during Minneapolis protests. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo of people driving a children’s train down a city street was taken in August 2014 during protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

THE FACTS: The photo circulated widely on social media this week with posts that falsely claimed protesters in Minneapolis stole the children’s ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ train from a nearby mall.

“Looters have stolen the children’s train out of the #Minneapolis…” one post shared on  Facebook stated. The post had nearly a thousand shares. 

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Another post on Twitter falsely claimed the train was stolen from the mall: “Minneapolis trippin fr they stole the mall train,” according to a tweet posted on May 28. The post had over 8,000 retweets. 

On Aug. 9, 2014, white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. The shooting prompted demonstrations that lasted for weeks. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. 

Several journalists covering the Ferguson protests at the time posted photos and videos on social media showing people riding the train in August 2014. False posts circulated around protests in Minneapolis, including claims that the Mall of America was attacked. 

Angry protests erupted in Minneapolis, and other parts of the U.S. this week after George Floyd, who is black, died while in police custody. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for several minutes during the arrest, despite Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was arrested Friday on murder charges. 

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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