On January 13 2020, Facebook user Ryan Fournier of Students for Trump (whose partner and co-founder was later charged with fraud for posing as an attorney) shared a video with the text: “Woman Steals Trump Sign. Immediately Regrets it”:
The post displayed over 100,000 views and significant engagement, but labeling on the video was slightly different. It read:
She Stole His Sign
And Got Arrested
In total, the video was roughly four minutes and 20 seconds long. It began with a young woman in a college sweatshirt walking away with an off-camera protester’s sign. A camera followed the woman several yards, and almost immediately, a police officer or security guard confronted her.
Although it was difficult to read what Fournier called a “Trump sign,” in the first few seconds part of the text was visible. Black text against an orange background read “WARNING: ABORTION VICTIM PHOTOS AHEAD.”
The sign did not display any reference to Donald Trump, and it was clearly not a “Trump sign.” As she walked, the off-camera protester shouted “Sam! Officer, she’s stealing the sign.” It was not clear if “Sam” and the “officer” were the same person, or if “Sam” was the person filming.
Despite the tension between the woman and the unseen protester, the woman and the guard or officer, and in the interactions in general, no one involved seemed to acknowledge the hovering cameraperson. All parties appear to be frustrated with one another, but content to be filmed close-up by an unacknowledged individual.
Fournier was not the first to falsely claim a woman was arrested for “stealing a Trump sign.” Not long after the video was disseminated, the page Conservative Woman racked up over six million views with the same framing:
On May 19 2019, the clip was uploaded to an anti-feminism subreddit:
On June 4 2019, WTVD-TV published an article about the woman’s arrest, as well as information about a previous incident between Created Equal protesters and a female student on the campus of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The woman seen in the clip is identified as 18-year-old Samantha Tennant.
WTVD-TV obtained comment from the University of North Carolina about the group’s protests and clashes with students:
UNC responded saying, “The university is a public university and therefore outside groups may assemble on campus under the First Amendment, the North Carolina Restore and Preserve Free Speech Act and the Board of Governors policy on free speech and free expression.”
UNC referred ABC11 to their Facilities Use Policy.
The university also said that the signs utilized on campus by the group were allowed and did not require a permit.
Fournier’s “Woman Steals Trump Sign. Immediately Regrets it” was old footage that was completely misrepresented. The clip was shared by the anti-abortion group Created Equal, and it was later boosted by various disinformation peddlers such as The Epoch Times. Around the time it appeared in May 2019, separate hyperpartisan and disinformation pages claimed the woman was arrested for “stealing a Trump sign,” despite the events of the video not supporting that claim.