Social media users are claiming a video seen millions of times in January 2023 shows looting in a liquor store in Memphis, Tennessee, as demonstrators across the United States react to the fatal beating by police of Tyre Nichols. This is false; reverse image searches show the clip has circulated since 2019, and Winnipeg police told AFP it was filmed in the Canadian city, not Memphis.
"Allegedly looting has started in Memphis. #TyreNicholsVideo," says one January 27, 2023 tweet sharing the video, which was viewed more than 181,000 times.
Screenshot from Twitter taken January 30, 2023
The post came as Memphis officials released footage of the scene as officers beat Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, following a January 7 traffic stop. Nichols was hospitalized after the encounter and died three days later, leading to second-degree murder charges for five of the officers involved and reigniting calls in the US for police reform.
Similar posts shared the video across Facebook, TikTok, Telegram, Truth Social and other social media platforms as protests cropped up across the US in the days that followed the release of the footage, which was pulled from police bodycam and surveillance cameras. One tweet from conservative activist Jack Posobiec drew more than 3.2 million views.
Screenshot from Twitter taken January 31, 2023
Screenshot from Facebook taken January 31, 2023
Some posts explicitly blamed Black Lives Matter organizers or antifa, a loose coalition of anti-fascist activists, echoing narratives that spread after the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police.
But the video is not recent or related to protests over Nichols's death; reverse images searches using Google Lens show the same clip was posted to Facebook and Instagram as early as November 11, 2019.
The captions on the 2019 posts did not say where or when the robbery took place, but commenters speculated that the video was captured in Winnipeg, Canada due to the layout and signage inside the store and the uniform worn by the employee seen in the background of the clip.
Authorities in the city confirmed to AFP that was the case.
"I can confirm that this is a video that originated in Winnipeg a few years ago," Ally Siatecki, media relations assistant for the Winnipeg Police Service, said in an email.
Siatecki said she did not have an original source for the footage but added that the business was a Manitoba Liquor Mart.
Laurel Trotter, a spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, told AFP in an email: "This video is from a robbery at a Manitoba Liquor Mart in 2019."
Theresa Carlson, public information officer for the Memphis Police Department, said the department posts surveillance videos and information about burglaries and other criminal activity on its Facebook page. But the video being shared online has not been posted to the page, according to AFP's review.
AFP sent enquiries to the accounts that shared the video in 2019, but no responses were forthcoming. One of the posts appears to have been removed following AFP's outreach.
AFP has previously debunked other out-of-context looting videos, including here, here and here.