An April 21 2020 post on the Facebook page “CALL TO ACTIVISM” purportedly showed a COVID-19 protester in Pennsylvania, whose sign in part urged the re-opening of “Pennslvania,” as well as “we the peaple”:
In just two days, the post was shared nearly 50,000 times. Along with text reading “Photo Credit: Miguel Marquez, CNN,” a caption on the image queried:
Maybe we shouldn’t take medical advice from someone who can’t spell “people” or the name of their own state?
In the photograph, a smiling woman with a red bandanna mask pushed down to expose her face and a red baseball cap on her head held a homemade, hand-lettered, poster board sign bearing a marker-drawn American flag and the following message:
Give me liberty or give me death
# We the peaple
The same image minus the yellow text appeared on Reddit’s r/facepalm on April 21 2020:
In a submission (“How stupid can someone be?”), the image was zoomed in on the woman and the sign. “Pennsylvania” and “People” were added to the image over the purported misspellings. Additionally, the image’s creator critiqued the flag drawn in marker on the sign:
On April 22 2020, the version in the Facebook post was shared to r/Fuckthealtright:
Posts like the ones above were part of a larger social media trend involving discourse about protests against non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19, such as lockdowns and quarantines, and the content of (or purported misspellings on) anti-lockdown protest signs. Other notable or viral signs were widely shared not for their implicitly poor spelling, but for the sentiments they expressed:
Or, in another notable instance, anti-Semitic:
Both signs in the above posts were authentic, unaltered, and correctly dated; both appeared during the same wave of astroturfed protests that began in mid-April 2020.
Initially, we were unable to locate any iterations of the image in the news, or shared anywhere other than social media sites mocking the purportedly poor spelling of the sign’s creator.
However, in discourse on one of the threads, we located what appeared to be the source of the photo in an image set tweeted by Marquez. The image was not cropped, and its different layout was unlikely to have been matched by reverse image searches.
Marquez tweeted three images at 9:46 AM on April 20 2020; the image of the woman with the sign was the second of the three images seen in the tweet:
Protesters against stay at home orders gathering in Harrisburg PA. Feels much like a re-re-election rally. pic.twitter.com/z468r0dK4e
— Miguel Marquez (@miguelmarquez) April 20, 2020
In addition to the inclusion of the image with its misspellings visible as it originally appeared, Marquez provided a date and location for the depicted COVID-19 anti-lockdown protest:
Protesters against stay at home orders gathering in Harrisburg PA. Feels much like a re-re-election rally.
The misspelled COVID-19 anti-lockdown protest sign was authentic and unaltered, and the creator of the sign did indeed misspell both “Pennsylvania” and “people” as “Pennsylvania” and “peaple.” Marquez captured the image at an April 20 2020 protest in Harrisburg.
We contacted CNN’s Miguel Marquez for more information about the image, but we have not yet received a response.