CLAIM: A photo shows pallets of bricks along a Washington, D.C., street that were intentionally placed in the area to encourage violent protesting after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
THE FACTS: The bricks were stored along the road for work on an unrelated construction project that had been planned months in advance. Residents were notified of the project about 10 days prior to June 24, the day the court released its decision. Hours after the Supreme Court removed constitutional protections for abortion, false claims spread online resurfacing an old, misleading narrative that pallets of bricks were being intentionally placed in U.S. streets, with the suggestion that they were planted to incite violence during expected protests.
The idea previously circulated widely online during protests against racial injustice throughout the summer of 2020, and again in 2021 linked to protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On June 24, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican Congresswoman from Colorado, tweeted a photo of the bricks and named the Capitol Police, asking them “why are there 20 pallets of bricks one block from the House Office Buildings?”
While Boebert didn’t ascribe a motive to the bricks’ placement, many commenting and sharing her message did. “Meanwhile, someone paid to haul pallets of bricks in and deposited them just 2 blocks from the Capitol offices?” wrote one user. “It’s as if they want violence and riot,” commented another.
But the claims are false. The bricks were stored along the 400 block of First Street by an alley paving contractor under a permit issued by the District Department of Transportation for an ongoing construction project. While the beginning of the project coincided with the day the Supreme Court announced the decision on abortion, the work had been scheduled well in advance, according to a spokesperson for DDOT and official notices sent by the agency and reviewed by The Associated Press.
Geolocation data accessed through Google Maps confirms the image being shared online was taken along the 400 block of First Street, and a map of ongoing road projects published by DDOT also lists the same stretch as an alley currently under construction. A letter sent to residents and businesses along the construction route dated June 16 explained that DDOT was beginning an alley improvement project “on or about Thursday, June 23, 2022."
The notice specified that the project would “include concrete/brick work.” Reached on the phone Monday, the owner of a business located along the construction site, who did not want to be named, confirmed they received the notice, and said ongoing work was being done on the street. Even so, it was not known exactly when, or if, the Supreme Court would deliver a decision on the abortion case.
The court on June 22 added June 24 as an additional decision day. Mariam Nabizad, a public affairs specialist for DDOT, told the AP that stacks of bricks were placed along the block the morning of June 24 “for scheduled and ongoing alley restoration work” by its contractors.
“Our teams wrapped the stacks in plastic at the close of that work day, and also removed them from the area Saturday night,” Nabizad wrote in an email. She added that the project work was identified on Sept. 7, 2021, and included in the city’s PaveDC Plan that was distributed in October 2021.