Bricks stored on DC street for pre-scheduled construction
CLAIM: A photo shows pallets of bricks along a Washington, D.C., street that were intentionally placed in the area to encourage violent protesting after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The bricks were stored along the road for work on an unrelated construction project that had been planned months in advance and residents were notified about at least 10 days prior to Friday, the day the court released its decision, triggering protests. The ongoing alley paving project began Thursday and was scheduled to run through June 30, but those along the construction route were told by June 16 of the planned work in the area, according to District Department of Transportation records.
THE FACTS: Hours after the Supreme Court on Friday removed constitutional protections for abortion, false claims spread online resurfacing an old, misleading narrative that pallets of bricks were being intentionally placed in U.S. streets, with the suggestion that they were planted to incite violence during expected protests.
The idea previously circulated widely online during protests against racial injustice throughout the summer of 2020, and again in 2021 linked to protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Social media users pushed similar claims on Friday, sharing a photo of pallets of bricks located on a street in the U.S. capital.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican Congresswoman from Colorado, tweeted the image that night and named the Capitol Police, asking them “why are there 20 pallets of bricks one block from the House Office Buildings?” in a post that was shared nearly 14,000 times.
While Boebert didn’t ascribe a motive to the bricks’ placement, many commenting and sharing her message did — claiming they were purposefully placed there to incite or be used in rioting.
“Meanwhile, someone paid to haul pallets of bricks in and deposited them just 2 blocks from the Capitol offices?” wrote one user.
“It’s as if they want violence and riot,” commented another.
But the claims are false. The bricks were stored along the 400 block of First Street by an alley paving contractor under a permit issued by the District Department of Transportation for an ongoing construction project. While the beginning of the project coincided with the day the Supreme Court announced the decision on abortion, the work had been scheduled well in advance, according to a spokesperson for DDOT and official notices sent by the agency and reviewed by The Associated Press.
Geolocation data accessed through Google Maps confirms the image being shared online was taken along the 400 block of First Street, and a map of ongoing road projects published by DDOT also lists the same stretch as an alley currently under construction.
A letter sent to residents and businesses along the construction route dated June 16 explained that DDOT was beginning an alley improvement project “on or about Thursday, June 23, 2022,” according to a copy provided to the AP by the agency.
The notice specified that the project would “include concrete/brick work.” Reached on the phone Monday, the owner of a liquor store located along the construction site, who did not want to be named, confirmed they received the notice earlier this month, and said ongoing work was being done on the street.
Emergency no-parking signs posted in the area listed the project’s permit number and the agency’s logo, and also stated that parking on the street would be restricted for one week, beginning Thursday — which was one day ahead of the announcement — and lasting through June 30, according to images of the sign that were posted online and verified by DDOT.
Even so, it was not known exactly when, or if, the Supreme Court would deliver a decision on the abortion case, which concerned the legality of Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The court on Wednesday added Friday as an additional decision day.
Mariam Nabizad, a public affairs specialist for DDOT, told the AP that stacks of bricks were placed along the block on Friday morning “for scheduled and ongoing alley restoration work” by its contractors.
“Our teams wrapped the stacks in plastic at the close of that work day, and also removed them from the area Saturday night,” Nabizad wrote in an email.
She added that the project work was identified on Sept. 7, 2021, and included in the city’s PaveDC Plan that was distributed in October 2021.
The Supreme Court’s Friday decision reversed a stance held for nearly a half-century under Roe v. Wade. The court’s overturning of the landmark court ruling is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.