Police detain a demonstrator during an anti-lockdown 'Unite for Freedom' protest, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain, April 24, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

More than meets the eye to phoney London ‘lockdown protest’ photo

AAP FactCheck April 27, 2021

The Statement

A photo shared on both Instagram and Facebook is claimed to show massive crowds at an anti-lockdown protest in London on April 24.

The image shows hordes of people near one end of London’s Hyde Park, as viewed from the air.

The April 25 Instagram post, from an Australian account, includes the caption: “UK Anti Lockdown 24.04.21. Aerial view, My word, that is some Epic amount of Conspiracy Theorists. Long Live Freedom.”

At the time of writing, the post had been liked more than 1,200 times and viewed more than 67,000 times. One commenter on the Instagram post claimed “approx numbers” at the anti-lockdown protest were 750,000 people.

An Instagram post that includes the crowd photo
 An Instagram post claims to show a huge crowd protesting lockdowns in London. 

The Analysis

An anti-lockdown protest was held in London on April 24, but it drew only a fraction of the crowd seen in the photo – which actually shows hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating more than two years ago for a new Brexit referendum.

The same image as seen in the social media posts appears uncropped in an ITV article on the October 2018 protest alongside other aerial images of people massed in London streets. The earliest archived version of the ITV article includes the image.

The aerial photo was featured in other news coverage at the time, while additional footage from that protest shows matching images of crowds milling around Apsley House at the edge of Hyde Park with buses and other vehicles also visible in front of the building.

Social media and blog posts from 2018 include the same aerial image claimed to be from the recent anti-lockdown protest.

Some news reports from the time claimed the anti-Brexit protest drew more than 700,000 people, making it the largest demonstration in the UK since the Iraq war in 2003. FullFact said its “crude estimate” of the crowd was around 450,000, while the Greater London Authority estimated the headcount at 250,000, according to the UK Sunday Telegraph.

In comparison, the anti-lockdown protests on April 24 drew crowds of around 10,000 according to Reuters and Sky News reports. Images from the protests show crowds of a similar magnitude to the size identified in reports.

The same anti-Brexit protest photo was previously falsely claimed to show a pro-Donald Trump demonstration in November 2020.

Police detain a demonstrator during the anti-lockdown protest
 Police detain a demonstrator during the anti-lockdown protest in London on April 24. 

The Verdict

The image included in the post is not from London’s April 24 anti-lockdown protest as claimed. Rather, it is from a much-larger anti-Brexit protest that took place in 2018.

False  – Content that has no basis in fact.

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