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Video shows 2015 farmer protest, not rally against COVID mandates

February 7, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows Belgian farmers using tractors during a protest in support of “freedom convoy” demonstrations in Canada against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The protest in Belgium had no relation to the ongoing demonstrations in Canada against vaccine policies. The video was taken in 2015, years before the COVID-19 pandemic. It shows a protest in Brussels, the European Union capital, by farmers upset about falling agricultural prices.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing an old video of a clash between farmers and authorities in Belgium to falsely claim it shows a European rally in solidarity with trucker vaccine mandate protests going on in Canada since late last month.

The footage shows two large tractors approaching a line of white-helmeted police officers and law enforcement vehicles, prompting the police trucks to start spraying water cannons at the tractors.

One Twitter user posted the miscaptioned video on Saturday, with text saying: “Belgium” and “Freedom, either join us or get the Hell out the way!” It has been shared more than 6,000 times and received more than 15,000 likes.

But the video originated five years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is unrelated to the Canadian demonstrations.

The video emerged on Sept. 7, 2015, when Spanish radio journalist Jacobo de Regoyos uploaded it from near Evere, Belgium. Regoyos posted the video with a caption, translated from Spanish, that said: “A friend has sent this video to us Brussels correspondents about the farmers’ demonstration today in the EU capital.” Several news agencies later shared the video.

Regoyos says on his Twitter profile that he covers EU news. He did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Photos from the September 2015 protest published by the stock photo sites Alamy and Shutterstock show similar images of the event from different angles, including lines of tractors and clashes between protesters and police. Images by The Associated Press also show the tractors approaching police.

The demonstration unfolded in the streets of Brussels as EU ministers held emergency meetings over the agriculture crisis. Local and international news outlets reported at the time that the farmers, who traveled from across Europe, argued that falling food prices, especially among items like milk and meat, were threatening the industry.

The thousands-strong crowds gathered near the EU headquarters to demand the commission provide emergency funds and other relief efforts.

The video was also misrepresented in 2021, when social media users falsely claimed it showed protests against COVID-19 measures in France.

Separately, in Canada, a convoy of trucks and other protesters have continued to gather in and around the capital of Ottawa, prompting the mayor to declare a state of emergency Sunday.

The demonstration began in late January among truckers protesting a vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has said a great number of the protesters have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda to push, the AP has reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned violence and acts of hate that have occurred during the demonstrations.

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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.