By: Sam Doak
July 7 2023
This photograph was taken during peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2019.
On June 27, 2023, French police killed a teenager in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. In the days that followed, the country experienced widespread civil unrest, with protests and rioting occurring in numerous cities and towns.
As this unfolded, some on social media have attempted to blame the unrest on migrants and France’s ethnic and religious minority groups. One particular video has been used repeatedly for this purpose: footage showing a group of people on Statue Marianne, a monument in Paris’s Republic Square.
Noting that many of those on the statue are holding Algerian flags, some social media users have attempted to tie this footage to anti-migrant narratives concerning the role of minority groups in the recent protests and riots. One social media user tweeted a still from the footage with the caption, “Paris, Republic Square. France has fallen,” garnering over 2,200 retweets and 3,700 likes.
Outside of Europe, this piece of media has been used to cast aspersions against Muslim communities in India. One Twitter account, with over 128,000 followers, tweeted it with a caption warning of unsubstantiated dangers posed by this group. A translated version of the caption reads, “See what the people of the 'special community' have done in France. You Hindus of Hindusthan also be careful and unite. Otherwise, tomorrow someone like this will encroach here.”
While many social media users appear to believe this video was taken during recent civil unrest, this footage predates it by a significant amount of time.
A reverse image search reveals that the video in question was recorded in 2019. A stock photograph of this event, available on the website Dreamstime, has the following description attached to it: “Demonstrators waving Algerian flags occupy the Place de la République in Paris to protest against ailing Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term. Images of the protest in Paris.”
These protests occurred in response to the former president of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plans to seek a fifth term in office. According to Human Rights Watch, this event was part of continued pro-democracy efforts, which ultimately “forced Bouteflika’s resignation in April 2019.”
It should be noted that, according to contemporaneous news reports, these protests were peaceful in nature. In its coverage of these events, France 24 stated, “One of Macron's close political allies, François Bayrou, called the peaceful demonstrations an 'Algerian Spring' on Sunday and said it was 'in many ways exemplary and essential'."
This video was taken in 2019 and shows pro-democracy protests characterized as peaceful at the time. This claim has therefore been marked as false.