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The claim: The Black Lives Matter and antifa movements are behind the burning of a Minneapolis church
The emotional three-week trial of Derek Chauvin came to an end April 20 when the former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while being restrained by Chauvin in police custody.
The May 25, 2020, video of a handcuffed Floyd lying prone on the ground as Chauvin, a white 19-year police veteran, pressed a knee against Floyd's neck sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The summer of 2020 saw some of these protests in cities such as Portland marred by violence, property destruction and clashes with police and counter-protesters.
The city of Minneapolis and several others prepared for a potential repeat of the summer's unrest as the Chauvin trial neared its conclusion.
But one viral Instagram video claims before the verdict that an incident had already happened, and it lays the blame on BLM and antifa.
"Black Lives Matter and antifa set Catholic church on fire in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Domestic terrorism in American streets," declares text displayed over a video of a burning building.
The video, shared on April 20 by an account called republicanparty, which describes itself as "Your #1 source for Republican news," cites another Instagram account associated with an Evan Kilgore as the original source.
The text post accompanying the video claims this fire is a "preview for what is to come after the Chauvin verdict" and warns that "not even churches are safe from the mob in Minneapolis."
We found the video is authentic, but the fire did not happen as republicanparty or Evan Kilgore claims it did. USA TODAY has reached out to the posters for further comment.
Church fire not connected to Chauvin trial
According to the Minneapolis Fire Department, firefighters responded to a fire at the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in northeast Minneapolis just before 7 p.m. on April 19, a day before Chauvin's verdict was announced.
Heavy fire and damage within the century-old, two-story Polish National Catholic church forced firefighters to control the flames from the outside, reported the Star Tribune. Aerial shots of the fire, as seen in the Instagram video, were captured by other local news outlets.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation by the fire department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, links to potential civil unrest have been dismissed.
"There (are) no indications that the fire is associated with any civil unrest at this time," Melanie Rucker, assistant chief of administration and the public information officer for the Minneapolis Fire Department, told The Catholic Spirit.
In an email to USA TODAY, the ATF declined to provide any further comment, deferring instead to the Minneapolis Fire Department, who USA TODAY has also reached out to for comment.
Speaking to a local ABC News affiliate, Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said there were people inside the church when responders arrived on scene, but they were safely evacuated. No injuries or causalities were reported.
Much of the blaze was put out by around 10 p.m., the department stated on Twitter.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim the Black Lives Matter and antifa movements were responsible for the burning of a Minneapolis church FALSE, based on our research. A Catholic church in northeast Minneapolis did catch fire on April 19 – a day before the Chauvin trial reached a verdict – and experienced heavy damage. But the fire department has said the event is not connected to any potential civil unrest.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, April 21, "Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd: Updates"
USA TODAY, June 18, 2020, "Tracking protests across the USA in the wake of George Floyd's death"
USA TODAY, May 31, 2020, "Thousands in cities across the world join protests against death of George Floyd"
Associated Press, Sept. 4, 2020, "Portland's grim reality: 100 days of protests, many violent"
The New York Times, June 10, 2020, "Trump, Lacking Clear Authority, Says U.S. Will Declare Antifa a Terrorist Group"
Washington Post, April 18, "Minneapolis braces for unrest as Derek Chauvin trial enters final phase"
Minneapolis Fire Department, April 19, Twitter thread
Star Tribune, April 19, "A church in northeast Minneapolis heavily damaged by fire"
WCCO 4 News, April 19, "Fire Destroys Historic Northeast Minneapolis Church"
KARE 11, April 20, "Fire damages church in northeast Minneapolis"
KSTP, April 19, "Northeast Minneapolis church heavily damaged after fire"
The Catholic Spirit, April 20, "Minneapolis' fire-damaged Sacred Heart of Jesus is part of the Polish National Catholic Church. What does that mean?"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: BLM and antifa not behind Minneapolis church fire