Old Italian police video misrepresented as US pro-Palestinian protest crackdown

Social media users are claiming a video shows police using excessive force against a pro-Palestinian protester as demonstrations against Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza have swept university campuses across the United States. This is false; the clip shows an incident in Italy in May 2023.

"Scenes of American police brutally attacking a student in solidarity with Palestine," says a May 1, 2024 post on X.

The post shows a video of three officers beating a woman on the ground in a parking lot, using batons and pepper spray. Similar posts spread across X, including in Arabic.

<span>Screenshot from X taken May 3, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken May 3, 2024

The clip follows clashes between police and pro-Palestinian protesters that have broken out on college campuses throughout the United States, where demonstrations against Israel's war on Hamas have rocked university operations for weeks.

Campuses around the world have seen student protesters forcibly dismantled, but the footage is unrelated to university protests -- and it predates the war in Gaza by several months.

Reverse image searches surfaced the clip in social media posts and articles about a May 24, 2023 incident involving Italian police and a transgender woman (archived here, here, here and here).

AFP reported at the time that the Brazilian transgender woman, known by the pseudonym Bruna, was suing for torture and bodily harm. The mayor of Milan said the officers would face disciplinary action, while prosecutors opened an investigation.

The title "Polizia Locale," Italian for municipal police, is visible on the back of the officers' uniforms in the footage.

An Italian police car also appears in the frame, along with other vehicles carrying European-style license plates.

Similar trees, shrubbery, yellow street markings, green fencing, poles and bike parking spaces are visible in Google Maps Street View imagery captured outside a library at Bocconi University, where one article reported that the incident took place (archived here and here).

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict here.