Fact Check

Charlotte Tells Rioters Anyone Caught Looting Will Lose Welfare and Food Stamps Permanently

A fake news site played to racially charged rhetoric by claiming that Keith Lamont Scott protest 'rioters' in Charlotte would lose all government benefits if caught looting.

Published Sept. 23, 2016

Charlotte "rioters" will lose all government benefits if caught "looting" during protests after the death of Keith Lamont Scott.

The shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on 20 September 2016 kicked off protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, events that a clickbait fake news site shamelessly played upon to lure readers into generating advertising revenue for them.

On 21 September 2016, the Baltimore Gazette — a purveyor of fake news, not a real news outlet — published an article reporting that any "rioters" caught looting in Charlotte would permanently lose food stamps and all other government benefits:

According to multiple reports, city officials have announced new measures in an effort to curb the violence sweeping Charlotte since the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Any individuals caught rioting, looting, destroying property or otherwise reacting in a violent and unlawful manner will have their government benefits permanently revoked.

According to the local affiliate WBTC, the punishment also applies to minors who might be participating in the ongoing melee. Parents of underage individuals who are captured while engaging in criminal activities related to the rioting will be held fully accountable, and could risk losing state benefits, as well as the custody of their child.

“Parents are responsible for their children. If they are allowing them to engage in lawless behaviors there will be consequences for them as parents.” Charlotte City Official, Wilson Stewart, told reporters during the 30 minute press conference. “Many of the individuals we have detained are high school students. We urge parents out there to know where their children are at all times until tensions are quelled. Have them adhere to the mandatory curfew. Make them aware that participation in looting, destruction of property, and violently demonstrating on any level will come with severe penalties.”

The announcement was made shortly after hundreds of national guardsmen and law enforcement officers took to the streets intent on restoring calm to the city. Whether or not the recent announcement had any impact on the chaos remains to be seen as the riots grind on into their tecond [sic] night.

The article appeared at the height of unrest in Charlotte and echoed genuine comments (not subsequently codified as law) made by a Maryland legislator during unrest in Baltimore following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.

The false "rioters will lose food stamp and welfare benefits" rumor is a favorite for fake news sites to trot out during periods of protest and demonstrations:


An unnecessary Google search reveals there is no Charlotte "city official" named Wilson Stewart, and the image used to illustrate the article actually depicts an April 2009 G20 summit protest in London rather than September 2016 demonstrations in Charlotte.

In addition to the claim about riots and food stamps, the Baltimore Gazette additionally exploited controversy over recent police shooting incidents by recycling a fake news story from 2014 about an overzealous policeman harming a breastfed baby or her mother.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.