Pro-Trump New York rally footage is from 2020, not 2023

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Social media users claim a video shows Donald Trump supporters blocking traffic in New York City one day after the former US president said he would soon be arrested in a legal case over hush-money payments. This is false; the footage is from October 4, 2020 -- not 2023 -- and shows people driving down Fifth Avenue after Trump was hospitalized with Covid-19.

"Today in front of Trump Tower NYC!!!" says a March 19, 2023 tweet sharing the clip, which received more than 720,000 views.

"Trump supporters have shut down 5th Ave in NYC right outside Trump Tower," says another.

Screenshot from Twitter taken March 20, 2023

Similar posts shared the video in severallanguages across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Telegram.

The claims came one day after Trump said in a March 18, 2023 Truth Social post that he "will be arrested on Tuesday of next week." The former president called for his supporters to "protest" and "take our nation back," echoing his rhetoric leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Trump was referencing a probe by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The investigation centers on $130,000 paid weeks before the 2016 election to allegedly stop Stormy Daniels, a porn actress, from going public about an affair she says she had with Trump years earlier.

New York officials have made security preparations and braced for unrest amid a potential indictment, which would be the first criminal charge brought against a former or sitting US president. A few dozen protesters gathered in New York City on March 20 and March 21, although no charges had been announced as of 1830 GMT on the latter date.

The video shared online does not show those demonstrators -- it was taken at a rally outside Trump Tower two-and-a-half years ago, the event's organizer confirmed to AFP.

"The videos going around were from the October 4, 2020 Trump caravan that was also accompanied by a food drive in which several pickup truck loads of food were delivered to Hour Children food pantry after the caravan progressed down Fifth Avenue," Shawn Farash said in a March 20 email.

Farash, who organized the event on behalf of the right-wing Long Island Loud Majority organization, also clarified the origin of the footage in a series of tweets.

"This is not Sunday 3/19," he said in one post published the same day. "This was October 4th 2020. How do I know? Because my organization put this rally together."

In another, Farash added: "Anyone who sees video of a rally outside of Trump Tower, know that it is NOT HAPPENING TODAY."

A Facebook event, which Farash confirmed to AFP is authentic, described the rally as a drive into New York City from Long Island, New York. Farash said the event listed the destination as Times Square, not Fifth Avenue, so as to divert potential counter-protesters.

News reports from local television stations and outlets such as the New York Post and Fox News characterized the rally as a show of support for Trump, who had been hospitalized with Covid-19 days prior.

Other indicators that the video is old: Numerous rallygoers wave flags for Trump's 2020 presidential campaign, and a bus sports an advertisement for "The Comey Rule," a television miniseries that aired that year.

Some people in the video shared online, including a man with a "Trump 2020" flag draped over his shoulders, are also visible in pictures published by outlets such as the New York Post and the Daily Mail.

AFP reached out to the New York City Police Department for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about Trump rallies here, here and here.