FactCheck Social Media

Berlin ‘COVID-19 protest rally’ photo is from a dance music festival in 1997

2020-09-04 15:19:34

The Statement

A Facebook post featuring an aerial photo of Berlin, claims five million people from across Europe gathered in the German capital for a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The August 31 post reads, “Berlin. Yesterday 5 million from all over Europe gathering for the Unite for Freedom Rally. They are expected to stay upto (sic) 5 days or more as they demand for the government to resign.”

The August 31 post has generated more than 440 shares and around 18,000 views.

A Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims five million people from across Europe gathered in Berlin for a rally. 

The Analysis

The post’s claim of five million attending the Unite for Freedom rally in Berlin features an aerial crowd photo of the German capital, however the image is not from the August 29 protest but a music festival in 1997. The estimated crowd figures for the Berlin rally were also much smaller than the post’s claim.

There were several protests against COVID-19 restrictions held across European cities on August 29 including Berlin as well as the Unite for Freedom rally in London. News reports estimate between 18,000 to 38,000 people took to the streets in Berlin where the demonstration turned violent when protesters tried to storm the German parliament, the Reichstag.

Using a reverse image AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post’s photo was taken on July 12, 1997 at the Berlin Love Parade by photographer Robert Grahn. Grahn, who owns the aerial imagery agency Euroluftbild, captured the image above Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin.

The Love Parade techno music festival was founded in 1989 by DJ Matthias Roeingh, aka Dr Motte, as a way of spreading peace and joy. In 1997, crowd estimates for the festival were between 750,000 to 1.5 million people.

It’s not the first time photos from separate events have been used on social media to mislead on  the size of protests. AAP FactCheck previously debunked a similar claim where a photo from a 2019 music festival in Zurich was used for a Berlin march against measures to stop COVID-19.

A raver at Berlin's Love Parade.
 A photo from a music festival in Berlin was used to emphasise numbers at a protest against COVID-19 measures.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the photo in the Facebook post is not of the Unite for Freedom Rally in Berlin on August 29 and is misleading in its estimates about the number of people who attended the demonstration.

False – The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/