In July 2016, Facebook user Mark Roark published a status update reporting that Black Lives Matter protests in Memphis, Tennessee, had obstructed traffic routes to hospitals and thereby caused a child awaiting a heart transplant to “tragically expire”:
Protest in Memphis…Will blow your mind….Just learned that a little 12 year old girl was waiting for a heart transplant-time being very crucial. But the interstate was closed down due to the protest.
Her timeline was at a critical state and minutes totally mattered. She had a 45 minute window to receive the transplant, which would have undoubtedly saved her life. But with the interstate being closed down, “Black Lives Matter”, she tragically expired.
Very sad. The protest completely shut down the interstate and gave her no hope to live. Oh, forgot to mention, she was African-American.
So, tell me, do you think her life mattered????
By 11 July 2016 Roark’s post had been deleted, but screenshots of it spread via Facebook and Twitter and caused great concern among social media users. We contacted the Memphis Police Department on that date to determine whether any such death had occurred. The representative with whom we spoke was familiar with the rumor and had already personally researched it to determine whether there was any veracity to the claim.
According to that officer, there were no child deaths at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital on the night the incident purportedly took place. Moreover, the officer stated that when two critically ill individuals (a woman and a child) required transport to the hospital during the protest in question, police officers and protesters quickly cleared the road, and neither patient was delayed or denied passage. Police “double-checked” to ensure the story was false and were unable to find any incidents even remotely similar to the tale presented here.
Variations of the claim held that the child patient was traveling to St. Jude’s Medical Center for a transplant, but the Department of Health and Human Services’ list of active pediatric transplant centers does not include that facility among hospitals in Tennessee equipped to perform pediatric heart transplants:
Even without confirmation, the story of the Black Lives Matter protest in Memphis and the child transplant patient bore many red flags of a parable and not a true story: the child in question was never identified by name, and the circumstances of his or her death (the gender varied) were unreported by the media despite being highly newsworthy. The only detail included the post, one announcing that the supposedly dead child was black, was tacked on as an afterthought — an ironic point intended to drive home a political one.