By: Annet Preethi Furtado
November 15 2023
Screenshots of a viral video claiming to show pro-Palestinian protests in New York. (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)
Clip of a 2020 protest against police presence in the New York subway is being linked to pro-Palestine demonstrations amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Pro-Palestine demonstrations and vigils are being held around the world to protest against the bombardment and blockade imposed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces. Israel says its actions are in retaliation to deadly attacks by Hamas militants on its soil on October 7.
Amid this conflict, in October 2023, hundreds of protesters gathered for a rally in New York, demanding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, resulting in the closure of Grand Central Terminal. Social media images showed protesters exiting the train station onto 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, with numerous individuals detained by law enforcement. Reuters also reported on this incident.
What's the claim?
On X (formerly Twitter), a 17-second video is being circulated, claiming to show a pro-Palestinian riot at the Grand Central Station in New York. The footage captures a large crowd chanting, "The whole world is watching," with some individuals holding banners.
The footage, along with the caption, "BREAKING: RIOTS BREAK OUT IN NYC GRAND CENTRAL STATION AS PRO PALESTINIAN PROTESTORS GATHER," has been widely shared on X. One such X post (archived here) had garnered over 65 thousand views at the time of writing.
Screenshots of the viral posts on X.(Source: X/Screenshots/Modified by Logically Facts)
However, the video is from February 2020 and is unrelated to the Israel-Hamas conflict. It depicts protestors at New York's Grand Central Terminal opposing increased police presence on the subway.
What did we find?
We traced the video back to a post on X from the account Stop Cop City dated February 1, 2020. It was shared within a thread containing two similar videos, each lasting nine and eight seconds, capturing scenes from the protest. The post shared with the viral video is captioned: "A giant gathering at Grand Central right now demanding free transit in NYC, and cops out of our subways. Police just arrested one man for unknown reasons, and the crowd surged forward, chanting: 'THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!'"
Other videos in the X thread were shared with captions claiming that the crowd in Grand Central was protesting the policing, cost, and inaccessibility of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). It was also noted that as some protesters left, they were heard chanting profanities.
The January 2020 protest
News reports show that on January 31, 2020, over 500 individuals gathered at New York City's Grand Central Terminal to express their opposition to an alleged increase in police presence on the city's subway. Demonstrators held signs with messages such as "poverty is not a crime" and "the real farebeaters are on Wall Street," accompanying their chants, according to a report by The Guardian dated February 1.
The report further indicated that several people were arrested soon after the protests started.
Visual cues in the viral video
Upon analyzing the viral video, it becomes evident that the staircase featured prominently in it aligns with visuals from the coverage by CBS News, specifically at the 1:36 timestamp. Notably, the video and the news segment share common visual elements, such as pillars with overhead-mounted TVs, confirming that it is New York City's Grand Central Terminal. CBS’ report was dated February 1, 2020, and the video description said that the protest was led by an anti-police group that wanted officers out of the subways.
Comparison of the viral video with the YouTube video posted by CBS New York. (X/YouTube/Screenshots/ Modified by Logically Facts)
The viral video captures a protestor holding a sign with the message "no fare, no cops."
Screenshots of the viral post. (Source: X/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)
This specific placard is visible from the four-second mark and was previously shown in CBS New York's coverage of the Grand Central Protest in 2020, appearing at 1:19.
Screenshot from the YouTube video posted by CBS New York. (Source: X/YouTube/Screenshot/ Modified by Logically Facts)
In the viral video, another banner displaying "FULL SERVICE FULL ACCESS NO COPS NO FARES…" is visible, spanning from 0:07 to the 0:16 second mark. We found that an image from the protest posted on Alamy on January 31, 2020, also had the same banner.
Comparison between the banner in the viral video and the identical banner in an image posted on Alamy. (Source: X/Alamy/Screenshots/ Modified by Logically Facts)
The photograph is featured on Alamy with the caption: "NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: Protesters holding signs during Friday's rush hour protest against increased policing and rising fares in New York City's subways at Grand Central Terminal on January 31, 2020, in New York City." Ron Adar is credited as the image contributor.
These placards also indicate that the protest is unrelated to the Israel-Hamas conflict; further, the footage also predates the ongoing war.
An unrelated video of a protest from late January 2020 is being shared as depicting a recent pro-Palestinian riot at the Grand Central Station in New York City. The rally in the viral video was held against increased police presence on the subway and is unrelated to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.