Over the past few days, certain Twitter accounts have been sharing a video that they say shows people attacking the mayor of Toritama, Brazil, after he introduced new vaccination policies. However, it turns out that the incident shown in the video actually took place on November 3, 2021, during a protest against the expansion of a shopping centre and has nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Citizens in Brazil beat up the Mayor of Toritama who mandated vaccine passports”. This Tweet, featuring a video of a number of people beating up a man in a white shirt, was posted on Twitter on December 31 and has since garnered nearly 30,000 views.
The post, as well as others in French, claim that the man in question is the mayor of Toritama, a city in Pernambuco state in Brazil.
They said that he was attacked by people who were furious about a vaccination passport being instituted in the town.
But the social media users lauding this attack were actually sharing an invented story – Edilson Tavares, the mayor of Toritama, was not attacked and this video shows another incident entirely.
A recycled fake news story
While this video has only been circulating with captions in English and French since December 31, it had actually appeared online several weeks before that.
Our journalists did a search for the town "Toritama" on Twitter, looking for results in Portuguese. We found the same video featured in several Tweets by Brazilians from early November. These Twitter users also said that the man in the video was the mayor.
In order to verify these posts, we checked out Mayor Edilson Tavares’ Instagram account. it is pretty easy to see that he does not look anything like the man in the white shirt who appears in the video.
Importantly, the mayor posted the video in question on November 5 with a caption reading: "That’s not me. That person isn’t a politician.”
On the same day, the official account of Toritama City Hall posted a "clarifying note” explaining that the victim of the attack was the "lawyer at the Parque das Feiras shopping centre".
This was also confirmed by the Pernambuco state branch of the Brazilian Bar Association. On November 4, the branch said on its website that lawyer Melqui Roma was "attacked by shoppers at the Parque das Feiras shopping centre [...] while carrying out his job".
Several Brazilian media outlets also fact-checked the same video. For example, news site Folha de S.Paulo explained on November 10 that the lawyer was attacked during a protest against a planned expansion of the shopping centre.
Before being picked up by French- and English-speaking Twitter users, this video of an attack had already been circulating on Twitter since at least November 4, 2021. Thanks to the Instagram account of the mayor who had allegedly been attacked, as well as articles by Brazilian media outlets, we established that the video was indeed filmed in Toritama, but shows an attack on a lawyer that took place during a protest against a planned expansion of a shopping centre, not an attack against the mayor related to his vaccine policies.