A wild social media conspiracy that alleged the National Guard may have employed gun-toting children to suppress protesters—and spurred by the hashtag “Hitler Youth”—was the result of a protester using his video to make a “joke,” and a local Chicago politician who fueled confusion over the video.
An Instagram user with the handle Freebandz.sj recorded an Instagram live video later shared by someone else on Twitter early Saturday morning—it had two million views by 3 p.m. —showing multiple soldiers wielding guns next to a military vehicle.
“Who the f**k let their little bro in the army,” Freebandz.sj says, adding “how old are you bro, 13?” while the camera zeroes in on one particularly small-looking guard member.
The man behind Freebandz.sj told Forbes in a message on Twitter Saturday he originally asserted the soldiers were kids as a “joke,” and speculated the shortest person looked about 5 feet 2 inches tall.
The Instagram user — who asked to remain anonymous, out of fear of retribution— said he shot the video around Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, “right on the front lines of the protest” and asserted that he didn’t do anything to manipulate or alter the footage.
The video—and conspiracy—seemed to take off after it was shared by a Chicago alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who erroneously claimed the video in “the state of Georgia,” shows someone has “deployed child soldiers to confront protestors,” that it “is child abuse” and “Whoever is responsible must be held to account” (Ramirez-Rosa’s tweet has been retweeted over 20,000 times. He did not immediately respond to Forbes request for comment).
Scott Hawks, a spokesman for the Minnesota National Guard, said he could not comment definitively on the subjects of the video, but said that all enlisted soldiers are within the ages of 18 to 63 and are “traditional, fully-trained Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen.”
Pentagon puts military police on alert to go to Minneapolis (Associated Press)
Source: Forbes Business