On the first night of the Republican National Convention, the party aired a segment featuring Catalina and Madeline Lauf warning of dire consequences if Democratic candidate Joe Biden is elected president.
“This is a taste of Biden’s America,” one sister says in a voiceover as images of protests play onscreen. “The rioting, the crime. Freedom is at stake now and this is going to be the most important election of our lifetime.”
The problem is that one of the images in the segment doesn’t show the US at all — it shows Spain.
As first reported by Catalonian public broadcaster CCMA and independently verified by BuzzFeed News, one of the four images of protests was filmed in October 2019 in Barcelona. Protests broke out in the city after Spanish courts sentenced Catalan separatist activists to prison. The image used during the RNC video showed fires burning in the streets. One of those same streets can be seen as being in Barcelona by using Google Street View.
Other images of protests in the segment show footage of a march in Brooklyn, a car on fire in Chicago, and drone footage of a tree on fire in an intersection in New York. The final, and most striking, shot is the one from Barcelona.
BuzzFeed News was able to find identical footage on Shutterstock, a website that’s a common source for stock images and videos. In this case, the Barcelona footage used in the RNC segment is described as “Young rebel riot revolutionary anarchist.” Although that video doesn’t specify the location it was shot in, another angle shot by Getty Images does.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Protests have been raging around the country and the world since May, spurred by the police killing of George Floyd. Protests being portrayed as cities in chaos is a consistent frame from Republicans and the Trump administration, despite people on the ground saying it does not match reality. While some protesters do vandalize property or set fires, people (in Portland, for example) have said that it’s law enforcement exacerbating conflicts.
In some instances, violent actions have been attributed to white supremacists attempting to cause more violence. Yet the portrayal of the protests as violent has also led to armed counterprotesters taking to the streets and resulted in numerous clashes.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, protests broke out this week after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot several times from behind by a police officer while his children watched. During the third night of the Kenosha protests, a gunman carrying a semi-automatic weapon shot three people, two of whom died. The suspect was named as Kyle Howard Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who supported the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement and President Donald Trump. In one video, a person believed to be Rittenhouse confirms that he’s holding a lethal weapon. Rittenhouse was sitting in the front row of a Trump rally in January.