“I believe Antifa left this behind when they were kicked out of their Seattle autonomous zone,” Drew Hastings, a comedian and former Mayor of Hillsboro, Ohio, wrote on Twitter.

A meme posted three weeks ago on imgflip.com.

Attached to his tweet was an image of garbage spilling over, what Hastings implied, was a sidewalk in Seattle. Activists had apparently left behind the rubbish after police pushed them out of a section of Seattle that protestors had occupied without police presence for a little less than a month.

Hastings has close to 40,000 followers on Twitter and 27 accounts retweeted his post. However, the photograph wasn’t a picture of trash in Seattle’s ‘autonomous zone.’ It wasn’t even a picture of Seattle rubbish. It was refuse from beyond the Rockies, Great Plains and Appalachia. It was Greenpoint garbage.

A screenshot of Hastings’s tweet. He has since deleted it after the publication of this article.

Hastings’s tweet is one of many social media posts that have repackaged the likely aftermath of a trash fire on the corner of West and Huron Streets in Greenpoint as a scene from Seattle’s protests. The image has spread throughout Twitter, Facebook and meme websites since early July, shortly after police re-entered Capitol Hill, a neighborhood in Seattle.

Jared Lauridsen, a resident of Brooklyn, recently noticed the photo circulating on Facebook among his more conservative friends back home in Alabama. He was immediately skeptical.

“I suspected it was NYC due to the street sign,” he said in a message to Greenpointers.

After recognizing what he thought was an MPG Parking Garage sign (a parking garage chain in Greenpoint and other parts of the city), he found the building depicted in the photo via a quick search on Google Maps.

“I explained to my friend that it was not Seattle but didn’t get a response,” he said.

Manny Lorras, a tenant in the building complex near the corner of West and Huron Streets, confirmed that the image is “1000%” of the building on that corner. He also thinks it “has to be” the trash fire that occurred on that street on June 2 of this year.

“When the fire department came… the hose pressure blew out the window,” he explained, having received much of his information about the fire from one of the doorman in his building complex.

Building management boarded up the broken window that day, Lorras says. Whoever took the photograph must have snapped it soon after the fire department came, according to Lorras’s version of events. (A window in the image is shattered.)

Most posts attributing the aftermath of the trash fire to Seattle appeared on or after July 5, per a reverse image search on Google.

One Facebook account, however, posted the image on July 4. With a profile picture seemingly lifted from the cover of a romantic Western titled Along Came a Cowboy (the novel is a story of a “hot cowboy, a twisted killer, and one very resilient woman”), Dawn Jo Branch‘s account is suspect at best. Her earliest post dates back to only March of this year, and she (he, they or it) incessantly links to news sites with a conservative, sometimes conspiratorial, bent.

A screenshot of Dawn Jo Branch’s post of the Greenpoint trash fire.

Greenpointers asked Dawn Jo Branch where she found the image of Greenpoint garbage, but she hasn’t responded. More than 8,000 people have shared her post of trash in “Seattle.”

Unfortunately, this type of photographic trickery is common, explains Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and researcher who investigates the spread of misinformation across social media.

“False photos are critical currency in the world of mis- and disinformation,” he said in an email to Greenpointers. “If conservatives are using the Greenpoint trash fire fallout to go after protesters in Seattle, that would be a very typical use of misidentified photography.”

He pointed to an image said to be of Congressional Representative Ilhan Omar wielding a gun, which turned out to be a photograph taken in 1978 at military training campus in Mogadishu, three years before Omar was born, according to The Associated Press.

“Any event that gets people’s ideological juices flowing now seems to generate false or manipulated images,” said Barrett.

Drew Hastings, who has a larger social media megaphone than most, doesn’t know where he found the picture he posted on Twitter.

When asked how he felt having shared a misidentified photograph, Hastings declined to comment.

“And as far as my feelings on sharing it, I have none,” he said in an email to Greenpointers.


Update: Drew Hastings has since deleted the tweet mentioned in this article. Greenpointers reached out to him to see why and will update accordingly if he responds.

Join the Conversation

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  1. I also took pictures of this scene the morning after it occurred (Huron Street outside of ‘The Greenpoint), and yes it happened on NYC’s worst night of civil discontent (June 2nd) following George Floyd’s murder. I emailed several photos of the destruction to Greenpointers the next day but Never heard back…

    While I despise disinformation (False/misleading photos etc.) in all its forms, this fire was clearly an act of violence (innocent people/young children live in that building). Claiming it was in Seattle was an underhanded political tactic, however.. people destroyed our community that night and put innocent lives at risk. Glad the fire department put out that fire. Lesson that needs to be that two wrongs never make a right! Please don’t censor my post.

  2. This is one issue. Another issue is the amount of homeless encampments mainly on the biggest streets like Greenpoint Ave., Manhattan Ave., Calyer St. They have turned sections of these streets in cesspool areas with tons of garbage, going to the bathroom on the street etc. It is absolutely disgusting. Don’t feed these homeless people and demand of your elected officials they be put in secure, safe shelters.

    1. Calyer Street between Manhattan and Lorimer is no joke. There are encampments on both sides of the street. I’m a biggish guy who can protect myself (I hope), but I avoid the block, even though it’s my quickest route to Manhattan Ave. If I walk the block, I walk it in street. Cars are safer than the bearded tinkerer dude by Crunch, who is normal except when he’s having a episode, or the other 3-4 under the scaffolding (the two ladies are always polite but junkie guy is hit or miss). There’s trash and piss coating the block.

      I’d call the boys from the 9-4, except when I was a Hayseed who moved here 15 years ago, I complained to them and watched for my window as they threatened an pointed a gun at the head of a man they already had in restraints on India Street by the Astral. He was on the curb obeying already.

      I don’t know what to do.

      “Old New York” is back, for anyone who used to mourn it. It’s less charming as “new” New York rents are still in place. I don’t know what to do.

  3. I haven’t been on Cayler since bank closed franky, I was shocked by the amount of garbage and homeless ladies and the man with the little dog
    Organize and clean it up
    Be sure the news is notified. Where is your District Leader?

  4. Sadly, it seems that some commentators are comparing the homeless among us to the disposable trash in this mislabeled photo. There but for fortune go you or I my friends. The homeless are not some kind of alien half-human monsters. They are suffering people who have lost their way, people who desperately need our help, not our condemnation, dismissal, ridicule or fear. For if YOU were in their tattered shoes, if YOU lived their shattered lives, if YOU were at the end of your rope and had nowhere to go, then YOU would hope and plead for compassion and understanding; YOU would pray that when YOU stumbled, that when YOU fell, people would be there to lift YOU up – instead of kicking you further and further down into the abyss. For when they die in our parks or die on streets or die of neglect part of us also dies, part of our decency and common humanity, whether we realize it or not.
    
Love thy neighbor? Yes —especially if they are poor, hungry or homeless. Yes, —even if they are not your family, or your next-door neighbor. For that love & empathy & respect is the true meaning of community, compassion and Christianity. But you don’t need to be Christian, or even religious, to understand the meaning & social importance of the ancient teaching that tellsus: “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”.
    DeBlasio & Cuomo need to provide sanitary alternatives (for such as shower & bathroom facilities & masks & gloves for the homeless, instead of forcing them to congregate in large numbers in dangerous cattleicae shelters and risk their lives in this pandemic. For many decades NYC provided SRO (single room occupancy) housing, only to have it wiped out by gentification & greed. For many more decades before that, New York City provided free municipal bathhouses scattered thru-out the boroughs – for the crowed tenements dwellers of the last century. (In fact there was ine right down the block from the trash fire on Huron- now converted into a fancy condo). It’s time to revive those kind if efforts for a new reality – in a city that is becoming more and more unaffordable, with more and more unemployed & homeless ….soon to be joined by many thousands of evicted renters. There but for fortune go you or I.

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