The claim: Photos show piles of bricks placed around Kenosha, Wisconsin, in anticipation of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict
Two days before Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges, recycled rumors started to swirl online about potential unrest resulting from the verdict.
In a Nov. 17 Substack newsletter, Demi Pietchell claimed there were “mysterious bricks surfacing” in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Rittenhouse shot three people in August 2020, killing two and wounding one.
“Between 12 and 1 PM EST earlier today, a Kenosha officer checked a local alley way and verified there are ‘bricks everywhere,'” the self-described social media influencer and creative director wrote. “Hmm… preparing for the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict already, are we?”
In her newsletter, which accumulated more than 3,200 shares on Facebook within two days, Pietchell claimed bricks were also “delivered” to cities following the August 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. As evidence, she included a collage of photos showing large stacks of bricks.
Several conservative websites later picked up her claims.
“It appears the leftists are getting ready to clock in for work in Kenosha. There is a report of bricks being placed in Kenosha in preparation for rioting,” the Gateway Pundit wrote Nov. 17, citing Pietchell’s newsletter.
A website called We Love Trump then wrote about bricks appearing citing the Gateway Pundit, and Pamela Geller, co-founder of a group called Stop Islamization of America, wrote a Nov. 18 article citing We Love Trump. The photos from Pietchell’s newsletter were included in all three articles and an array of other social media posts.
But none of the images in the collage show bricks in Kenosha, a USA TODAY analysis found. And there’s no evidence linking them to planned protests, either.
All of the photos in the collage trace back to debunked rumors that circulated online during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, prior to Blake’s shooting. Kenosha police have refuted claims that activists are placing bricks around the city.
USA TODAY reached out to Pietchell and the websites that shared her claims for comment.
Photos show bricks in several cities, not linked to planned unrest
The photos shared in the articles show piles of bricks in several different U.S. cities in 2020. None of them were placed there for planned protests, as fact-checkers and media outlets reported at the time.
The collage in Pietchell’s newsletter shows seven images of brick piles. Several of them were included in a June 2020 story from BuzzFeed News, which debunked rumors that activists were strategically placing bricks at Black Lives Matter protests around the country.
Let’s break down each photo in the collage.
Two photos in the collage, in the bottom left and top right of the collage, show gray bricks next to three orange traffic cones in Fayetteville, North Carolina. BBC News reported in June 2020 that the bricks were linked to construction in the area.
Two more images in the collage, one in the top left and one in the center, show a pile of red bricks in front of Tom Thumb, a supermarket chain in Dallas, Texas. NBC News reported in June 2020 that the bricks were also related to a construction project.
A photo of someone standing in front of a pile of bricks, pictured at the center right of the collage, stems from a video shot in May 2020 outside a courthouse in Dallas. BuzzFeed News reported roadwork was underway at that location.
Another image at the center left of the collage shows bricks stacked around a tree trunk, surrounded by three orange cones. The photo was taken near a courthouse in Fort Myers, Florida, and city officials told a local NBC station in June 2020 that the bricks “were being temporarily stored to install a fiber optic cable.”
One photo in the bottom right of the collage does show demonstrators taking bricks from a pile in New York City. The image comes from a video posted on Twitter in late May 2020, when protests over the murder of George Floyd erupted across the country.
However, as BuzzFeed News reported, construction scaffolding is shown in the background, and the bricks were protected by barriers. Images from Google Maps show construction at that location dating back to 2017.
No evidence of protest-related bricks in Kenosha
Kenosha police told USA TODAY and other media outlets it hasn’t received confirmed reports of people placing bricks around the city. Independent fact-checking organizations have debunked images claiming to show bricks in Kenosha.
“No bricks!” Lt. Joseph Nosalik, a public information officer for the Kenosha Police Department, said in an email.
In her newsletter, Pietchell also cited as evidence audio purportedly taken from a police scanner. In the audio clip, an officer is heard relaying a report about “some bricks being stacked up” near an intersection in Kenosha. An operator is also heard reporting a complaint about “stacked bricks.”
USA TODAY independently verified the authenticity of the call, which took place Nov. 16. One of the complaints appeared to be connected to building construction, while the other was related to what an officer described as “bricks everywhere” in an alleyway off a residential street.
Nosalik did not respond to a request for comment on the audio. USA TODAY could find no evidence the bricks mentioned in the call were related to planned protests.
On Nov. 17, the same day Pietchell’s newsletter and several articles parroting her claims were published, the Kenosha Police Department addressed rumors about planned violence in the city.
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“KPD is aware of numerous attempts by malicious actors to spread disinformation on various social media platforms,” the police department tweeted. “To date, there is no credible threat to public safety.”
USA TODAY reached out to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department for comment.
USA TODAY also debunked similar claims regarding Detroit in early November of 2020.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that photos show piles of bricks placed around Kenosha in anticipation of the Rittenhouse verdict. The collage shared in articles and social media posts shows photos of bricks taken last year in several different cities. None of them were linked to planned protests or violence. Kenosha police say they haven’t received any confirmed reports of bricks stashed around the city.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, Nov. 19, Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts of homicide, reckless endangerment
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Aug. 31, 2020, ‘That’s the shooter’: Witnesses describe the night Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire in Kenosha
- Demi Pietchell, accessed Nov. 19, LinkedIn
- USA TODAY, Aug. 27, 2020, A visual timeline of violence in Kenosha after police shooting of Jacob Blake
- CrowdTangle, accessed Nov. 19
- Associated Press, Aug. 29, Jacob Blake, paralyzed in Kenosha police shooting, hopes to walk soon. But he fears more violence.
- USA TODAY, June 26, 2013, Britain bans two anti-Islam U.S. bloggers
- PolitiFact, June 3, 2020, Fact-checking theories about bricks and Black Lives Matter protests
- Joseph Nosalik, Nov. 19, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Factcheck.org, June 5, 2020, Bricks Were Placed for Construction, Not to Incite Protesters
- Rolling Stone, June 3, 2020, People Claim Authorities Are Intentionally Planting Bricks to Bait Protesters
- Google Reverse Image Search, accessed Nov. 19
- TinEye, accessed Nov. 19
- Yandex Reverse Image Search, accessed Nov. 19
- BuzzFeed News, June 2, People Say Pallets Of Bricks Are Showing Up Near Protests All Over The US. The Truth Is More Complicated.
- Shayan Sardarizadeh, June 2, 2020, Tweet
- BBC News, June 2, 2020, George Floyd protests: Misleading footage and conspiracy theories spread online
- Loránd Bodó, June 2, 2020, Tweet
- WBBH-TV, June 1, 2020, Pile of bricks builds fear during downtown Fort Myers protest
- The U.S. Sun, June 2, 2020, SET UP? George Floyd conspiracy as bricks ‘randomly’ appear at protests amid claims they were planted by to fuel violence
- Google Maps, accessed Nov. 20
- Kevin R Hogan, May 31, 2020, Tweet
- USA TODAY, June 10, 2020, From coastal cities to rural towns, breadth of George Floyd protests – most peaceful – captured by data
- Newsweek, Nov. 18, Fact Check: Are Photos of Random ‘Piles of Bricks’ in Kenosha Genuine?
- Associated Press, Nov. 18, Photo shows pile of bricks in Dallas, not Kenosha
- PolitiFact, Nov. 19, Old photos of ‘bricks’ resurface in days leading up to Kyle Rittenhouse trial verdict
- KING-TV, Nov. 19, Photo of stacked bricks claiming to be planted ahead of Rittenhouse verdict is a 2020 photo from Texas
- Kenosha Police Department, Nov. 17, Tw//eet
- Broadcastify, accessed Nov. 20, Kenosha County Public Safety
- USA TODAY, Nov. 3, Fact check: Bricks in Detroit are for construction projects, not to incite violence
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