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If Your Time is short

  • Protests in the area have resulted in the destruction of several businesses but authorities have said there’s no evidence linking the fire to the unrest.

A century-old church in Minneapolis was severely damaged April 19 in a fire that an Instagram post claims was tied to local protests over police brutality.

The fire at Sacred Heart of Jesus Polish National Catholic Church occurred amid high tensions in the Minneapolis area, where protests have flared following the fatal April 11 shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer in the northern suburb of Brooklyn Center. Meanwhile, a murder trial was under way for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. (Chauvin was found guilty on April 20.)

The Instagram post shows video footage of the church on fire, under the headline “Breaking: Black Lives Matter and antifa set fire to Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.” An accompanying caption calls it a “preview for what is to come after the Chauvin verdict.”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) Instagram is owned by Facebook.

The unrest in Minneapolis has occasionally turned into violent clashes between police and protesters, where businesses have been burglarized and destroyed by rioters.

But there’s no evidence that the church fire was tied to protests, or that Black Lives Matter or antifa activists were involved.

A GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to rebuild the church said the fire “unexpectedly started” and “quickly grew out of control.”

The fire caused heavy damage to the church, including the destruction of its roof, The Star Tribune reported.

Operation Safety Net — a coalition of state and local law enforcement agencies brought into Minneapolis ahead of Chauvin’s trial — said that, while the fire is suspicious, it is not believed to be related to any protest or the trial, according to a Star Tribune reporter.

A Minneapolis Fire Department spokesman told Bring Me The News, a Minnesota news outlet, the fire “does not appear to be associated with any civil unrest” and there’s no evidence to suggest members of Black Lives Matter or antifa activists were involved.

The department did not respond to a message or phone call from PolitiFact.

Black Lives Matter and antifa, an autonomous group of anti-facist activists, have long been bogeymen for right-wing websites and individuals.

False claims have previously been made against Black Lives Matter over burning down a Black church, money laundering and destroying stores. Antifa activists have also been falsely accused of being involved in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claims that Black Lives Matter and antifa activists set a fire that damaged a century-old church in Minneapolis.

Protests in the city against police brutality have resulted in some buildings being destroyed by rioters, but authorities say there’s no evidence linking the church fire to the protests or activists.

We rate this claim False.


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