By Angelo Fichera – Factcheck.org
Q: Are the viral photos of Mexican police being “brutalized” by Central American immigrants accurate?
A: No. Those images are old and unrelated to the group of immigrants seeking to come to the U.S.
As thousands of Central American immigrants march toward the U.S. border, many claiming to flee violence and corruption, misinformation about the so-called “caravan” abounds.
Viral posts this week, for example, have spread images purporting to depict severe attacks on police by the immigrants.
“Mexican police are being brutalized by members of this caravan as they attempt to FORCE their way into Mexico – And WE are supposed to believe these are just poor, helpless refugees seeking asylum???” a Facebook post of the photos reads.
But the photos, reverse image searches show, are all several years old.
We found the top photo, of a bloodied officer, in a 2012 news story about student-protesters colliding with police in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The photo and corroborating information is also available on the European Pressphoto Agency and is credited to the photographer Gustavo Aguado.
Another photo — depicting an officer with a bloody nose — was used in a 2011 report about a clash between teachers and police in Mexico’s Oaxaca state. And the third image can be seen in a gallery from a 2014 story about a melee between police and protesters in Chilpancingo — a city in Guerrero, Mexico — who were demonstrating, the BBC reported, to support students who had gone missing.
The photos that allege police brutality by members of the caravan have been shared by tens of thousands on Facebook. They have also appeared on blogs, the forum website 4chan and on Twitter.
The immigrants did indeed find themselves in a confrontation with Mexican police in riot gear as they crossed the border from Guatemala late last week. Video featured in an ABC News report, for example, shows authorities trying to prevent the caravan from advancing into the country.
During the encounter, the New York Times reported, members of the caravan “hurled objects at the police, including rocks and shoes” and “the police fired canisters of tear gas, forcing the migrants into a retreat.” The confrontation left at least six officers wounded and some of the immigrants were eventually processed and permitted to enter Mexico. Many others crossed illegally by swimming or rafting across a river.
The caravan’s march north began with a group of about 160 in the violent Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and scores of people have since joined the migration. The United Nations has cited an estimate that the group now tops 7,000 — with participants reportedly from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. But, as of Oct. 23, more than a thousand of the migrants have dropped out of the caravan and applied for refugee status in Mexico, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump has condemned the caravan’s plan to reach the U.S. border — claiming the group contains “criminal elements” — and has threatened to send the military to the border if necessary. He’s also described it as a critical issue in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
“Remember, it’s going to be an election of the caravan, you know what I’m talking about,” he said at a recent Montana rally. “You know what I’m talking about.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.
Averbuch, Maya and Kirk Semple. “As Trump Assails Caravan, a Clash Between Migrants and Mexico Police.” The New York Times. 19 Oct 2018.
“As human caravan moves through Mexico, ‘full respect’ needed for national control of borders: UN chief.” UN News. United Nations. 22 Oct 2018.
“Confrontation between normalistas and policemen in Michoacán leaves wounded, detained, and fires.” M-x.com. 16 Oct 2012.
Lakhani, Nina. “‘Yes, we can’: caravan of 1,600 Honduran migrants crosses Guatemala border.” The Guardian. 15 Oct 2018.
“Mexico missing students: Protesters clash with police.” BBC. 15 Dec 2014.
“POLICE DETAINS MORE THAN 100 STUDENTS IN MEXICO.” European Pressphoto Agency. 15 Oct 2012.
“Remarks by President Trump Before Air Force One Departure.” White House. 20 Oct 2018.
“State government refuses to dismiss Irma Piñeyro.” OaxacaEntrelineas.com. 17 Feb 2011.
Stevenson, Mark. “Weary migrants still far from reaching US border.” Associated Press. 23 Oct 2018.
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