A Trump Ad Used This Photo of Protesters Beating Up a Cop — in Ukraine, 6 Years Ago

The police officer is wearing the insignia of the Internal Troops of Ukraine, which was defunct in 2014.
July 22, 2020, 4:34pm
A police officer attacked by protesters during clashes in Ukraine in 2014. (Kyiv​Mstyslav Chernov​/Wikimedia Commons)

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A series of Trump campaign ads that ran briefly this week featured a photo of protesters assaulting a police officer to represent “chaos and violence” in the United States, but it turns out the photo was actually taken several years ago during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.

The ad was paid for by “Evangelicals for Trump,” and according to Facebook’s advertising library, the Trump campaign began running at least three different versions of it on the social networking site on July 21. The ads all have two photos next to each other — one of Trump with law enforcement and the other of protesters beating a cop — but feature different captions, which are tailored to issues like religious freedom and abortion and not policing issues.

“Help ensure Pro-Life values are represented in Washington for four more years,” one caption reads. “Join the movement today and ensure religious freedoms are kept as a top priority!”

The first of photo in the ads shows Trump from an event at the White House last year that hosted sheriffs from all over the country. (Trump was presented with an award given by 190 sheriffs for the president’s “unwavering efforts to stop illegal immigration.”)

But juxtaposed with the photo of Trump and the sheriffs is another photo which is available on WikiMedia Commons and was taken on February 18, 2014, and uploaded six days later by Mstyslav Chernov. The picture was first brought to light by Jesse Lehrich, a former aide to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in a series of late Tuesday tweets.

As Lehrich noted, the police officer is wearing the insignia of the Internal Troops of Ukraine, a now-defunct agency which was later absorbed into the new Ukrainian National Guard in March 2014.

Chernov confirmed to Business Insider that he took the photograph.

"Photography has always been used to manipulate public opinion. And with the rise of social media and the rise of populism, this is happening even more,” Chernov told BI. "The only way to combat this is through education and media literacy. When people learn to independently distinguish truth from lies, then the number of manipulations will decrease."

The clashes between pro-EU protesters and the Russia-friendly government in February 2014, which were part of the Euromaidan revolution of that winter, eventually resulted in the overthrow of then-Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych.

It’s unclear how the Trump campaign got this picture or why they used it, but as of Wednesday morning, the three ads from the Evangelicals for Trump page were all designated as “inactive.”

Instead, similar ads are now running which replaced the Ukrainian photo with one of an unidentified protester holding up a “Defund the police” sign.

Cover: A police officer attacked by protesters during clashes in Ukraine in 2014. (KyivMstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons)