An image claiming to be from the anti-social distancing protest in Michigan was widely circulated yesterday with the suggestion that one of the pro-Trump protestors had brought a Nazi swastika to the demonstration.
Outrage spread like wildfire, with a now-deleted thread on Reddit receiving over 70,000 upvotes from horrified and concerned netizens. Even Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell appeared on MSNBC where she condemned the the protestors for using swastikas.
Twitter and Reddit users went so far as to claim they directly witnessed the hate symbol in Lansing at the Operation Gridlock protest themselves. The image below was shared over 70,000 times on Reddit. The image was also featured on a Raw Story article that falsely suggested that anti-social distancing protestors were earnestly waving Nazi signs.
On April 17, Snopes released an article fact-checking the viral image, labelling it as “miscaptioned.” As it turned out, the demonstration the photo was from was not in Michigan, but an anti-Trump counterprotest at a pre-Bernie Sanders rally in Boise, Idaho that took place March 2, 2020.
While the identity of the sign-holder remains unknown, some additional images have surfaced which appear to suggest he was involved in the counterprotest, and was not a Trump supporter as he was widely labeled. The demonstrator appears in multiple images with a Bernie Sanders sign, and wearing a shirt with the anti-Nazi logo of American punk-rock group The Dead Kennedys.
Ironically, two days after this poorly-planned stunt, Bernie Sanders—the first Jewish candidate for president—would have an actual swastika unfurled at his Phoenix, Arizona rally by known white supremacist and Islamophobe Robert Sterkeson.
The Operation Gridlock protest has become a contentious social movement aimed at protesting the economic and social shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 mitigation effort. Hosted by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the protest takes aim at Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Two days ago, Fox News host Tucker Carlson launched into Whitmer, calling her bans on the purchase of goods like seeds and activities like fishing “arbitrary fascism.” Some demonstrators at the Operation Gridlock protest in Lansing held signs featuring Nazi imagery and comparing the governor to a Nazi.