‘2 Million People Are in the Streets of Ottawa Demanding Their Freedom’

On February 3 2022, a Twitter user tweeted that “2 million” people took to the streets of Ottawa “demanding their freedom,” along with a purported photograph of the purported two million:

For context, news organizations reported extensively about ongoing protests in Ottawa in early February 2022:

Fact Check

Claim: Image depicts "2 million people … in the streets of Ottawa demanding their freedom" in 2022.

Description: A claim made on Twitter stated that an image portraying a colossal crowd was from ‘2 million people’ protesting in Ottawa in February 2022.

Rating: Not True

Rating Explanation: The image was found to originate from at least 2013, and has been used in other contexts such as a Metallica concert or a protest in Moscow in 1991. The image is also notably manipulated, thus the claim is untrue.

Ottawa police are preparing for a second straight weekend [starting February 4 2022] of protests by truckers downtown over new Canadian Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

The truckers oppose a recent mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements. The group is also protesting other health restrictions, including mask mandates and Covid-19 lockdowns, CNN previously reported.

Some demonstrators have been threatening and harassing locals, officials said, including reports of homophobic and racist behavior, as Ottawa has become a hotspot for protesters objecting to the vaccine mandates, according to CNN’s previous reporting.

However, reverse image search very clearly indicated that the image in question was not from February 2022, or any time during the coronavirus pandemic. A version of the image was first crawled in February 2013, or at least nine years before the crowds it purported to show materialized.

Another version of the photograph was shared to Reddit in March 2020; at that point, it was described as a crowd of 1.6 million people who gathered to watch Metallica play — in 1991:

Even that description was disputed by commenters on the thread:

It’s 1991, August. Just after the Soviet Union collapsed there was a military putsch in attempt to seize the power and retain the Union that was doomed since the mid 80s. Here you see people’s support for Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, it was not only support for the future president but also a statement against the military intervention and violent conflict that was about to unfold on the streets of Moscow, it worked. The largest gathering my country had seen in the modern history.

The place is Manege Square located just before the Kremlin walls. In the 2000s the Square was fractioned with an ugly shopping mall beneath it in order to prevent gathering alike.

Check the link and dig into the topic if interested.


P.S I award this post with r/quityourbullshit badge

We located the image in a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “20 Years Since The Fall of the Soviet Union.” A caption under it said:

Editor’s Note: This photograph was discovered to have been manipulated, part of the crowd copied and pasted. … Hundreds of thousands of protesters pack Moscow’s Manezh Square next to the Kremlin, on March 10, 1991, demanding that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his fellow Communists give up power. The crowd, estimated at 500,000, was the biggest anti-government demonstration in the 73 years of since the Communists took power, and came a week before the nationwide referendum on Gorbachev’s union treaty.

An article about that photo can be found here.

A February 2022 tweet labeled an image as “2 Million People … in the Streets of Ottawa Demanding Their Freedom.” Previously, the image was described as “1.6 million people gathered for Metallica’s 1991 ‘Monsters of Rock’ concert in Moscow.” In 2011, The Atlantic published the image, explaining that it showed “Hundreds of thousands of protesters [in Moscow’s Manezh Square next to the Kremlin, on March 10, 1991” — and that even then, it had been manipulated.