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Old US Capitol attack footage misrepresented as 'civil war'

A video circulating online purports to show US soldiers posted in Washington in anticipation of a forthcoming civil war. This is false; the footage was taken more than three years ago when thousands of National Guard troops were deployed after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

"AMERICAN CIVIL WAR: The US Army is deployed around the White House," says a January 27, 2024 post on X, formerly Twitter.

The post includes a TikTok video of people in fatigues in front of the US Capitol -- not the White House, as it claims.

<span>Screenshot of an X post taken February 12, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an X post taken February 12, 2024

Another X post sharing footage of troops in front of a different building says: "OVER 1 MILLION MILITARY ARE NOW ACROSS THE UNITED STATES TO MAKE ARRESTS."

<span>Screenshot of an X post taken February 12, 2024</span>
Screenshot of an X post taken February 12, 2024

Similar claims have circulated on X and other platforms -- including in Spanish. Many allege martial law has been declared, with one Facebook user linking the video to rising tensions over immigration.

The posts surfaced after a Supreme Court ruling that sided with the federal government in allowing Border Patrol agents to remove barbed wire barriers along the US-Mexico border. The ruling sparked a standoff between the Biden administration and Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, whose state continues to fortify the banks of the Rio Grande.

Abbott has invoked Texas's constitutional authority to defend and protect itself, but the footage is unrelated to his actions. It was taken in January 2021, when thousands of National Guard troops were sent to Washington after Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol while Congress gathered to certify Joe Biden's 2020 election victory.

A reverse image search surfaced an X post shared January 19, 2021 with the same video (archived here). User comments suggest it was taken before Biden's inauguration.

MSNBC published similar footage January 14, 2021 (archived here).

"There are more U.S. troops in Washington than in Afghanistan and Iraq combined with new threats of extremist violence ahead of the inauguration," the caption says.

In the days leading up to Biden's inauguration, some 20,000 National Guard troops from six states and the District of Columbia were deployed to protect the Capitol and the White House.

MSNBC's footage and the clip shared online have several identical elements, including parked vehicles, a sign, cones in the street and a barricade.

<span>Screenshots taken February 12, 2024 from X and YouTube, with elements highlighted by AFP</span>
Screenshots taken February 12, 2024 from X and YouTube, with elements highlighted by AFP
<span>Screenshots taken February 12, 2024 from X and YouTube, with elements highlighted by AFP</span>
Screenshots taken February 12, 2024 from X and YouTube, with elements highlighted by AFP

The other video circulating on social media is similarly outdated.

A keyword search revealed CNN correspondent Manu Raju published the clip January 19, 2021 on X with the caption: "This morning in front of the Capitol" (archived here).

AFP photographers also documented the militarization of the streets surrounding the Capitol in 2021.

<span>Members of the US National Guard stand watch at the Capitol in Washington on January 17, 2021</span><div><span>ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS</span><span>AFP</span></div>
Members of the US National Guard stand watch at the Capitol in Washington on January 17, 2021
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDSAFP

AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims -- including misrepresented visuals -- about the US-Mexico border here.