Video from pro-Palestinian demonstration misrepresented after French elections

Social media users are claiming a video shows supporters of France's New Popular Front waving Palestinian flags during a rally after the left-wing coalition's stunning performance in the country's snap elections. This is false; the clip shows a pro-Palestinian protest in Lyon roughly a month before the polls.

"The victory rally for the new French government has more Palestinian flags than French flags," says a July 7, 2024 post sharing the video on X.

<span>Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024

"Huge celebrations in Gaza today. Sorry for the typo, this is Paris," another X user wrote.

Similar posts spread in multiple languages across X and other platforms, amplified by outlets such as Sky News Australia and influencers who have previously promoted misinformation. Republican US Senator Mike Lee also shared the video on X, writing: "RIP France."

<span>Screenshot from skynews.com.au taken July 8, 2024</span>
Screenshot from skynews.com.au taken July 8, 2024
<span>Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024

Several posts claimed the video was captured on July 7, when the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) topped the polls in the second round of snap elections called by President Emmanuel Macron, keeping Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) party out of power and beating Macron's centrists. No group won an outright majority, leaving the nation with a hung parliament and difficult negotiations on forming a new government.

Many French voters had feared the anti-immigration, Eurosceptic RN would seize the largest portion of parliament's seats, with cheering crowds gathering in Paris to celebrate the outcome.

Some opponents of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the pro-Palestinian leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) group included in the NFP coalition, have meanwhile accused the firebrand leftist of anti-Semitism.

Demonstrations against the war in the Gaza Strip have occurred across Europe, including in Paris and other parts of France, since Hamas's bloody October 2023 attack plunged the Middle East into conflict. With around six million people of Islamic faith or background, France is home to one of Europe's largest Muslim communities.

Some Palestinian flags appeared among the crowds that gathered July 7, 2024 in Paris's Place de la République. But the clip spreading online is unrelated to the country's elections.

Reverse image searches revealed social media user Bismuth Back first posted the video to X and Instagram on June 1, saying in French captions that it showed a pro-Palestinian protest in Lyon (archived here and here).

"I filmed the original video in Lyon June 1," he told AFP in a direct message, adding that the rally took place at Place Bellecour, a square in the city center.

The gathering was meant to support the Palestinian people, he said, and "absolutely not related to the elections."

Metadata attached to Back's original file, shared with AFP, confirms it was filmed June 1 -- days before Macron's call for snap elections on June 9.

Google Maps Street View imagery for Place Bellecour, meanwhile, shows the same buildings and landmarks that appear in the video (archived here).

<span>Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>
Screenshot from X taken July 8, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP
<span>Screenshot from Google Maps taken July 8, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP</span>
Screenshot from Google Maps taken July 8, 2024, with elements outlined by AFP

Local media reported there were thousands of attendees at the demonstration, which was organized by Collectif 69, an advocacy group calling for a ceasefire, sanctions against Israel and protection of Palestinians (archived here, here and here). The organization advertised the rally on its website and social media (archived here).

On Facebook, Collectif 69 shared a photo showing the same crowd captured in the video misrepresented online (archived here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about French politics here.

July 11, 2024 This article was updated in the eighth paragraph to correct the year of Hamas's attack on Israel. July 10, 2024 This article was updated in the ninth paragraph to detail celebrations in Paris.