Fact Check

Were DACA Recipients Photographed Burning an American Flag?

A photograph of a protest was shared with unfounded claims and an inaccurate and misleading description.

Published Jan 3, 2018

A photograph shows a group of DACA recipients dressed in Mexican flags burning an American flag.

An old image purportedly showing a group of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act burning an American flag took another lap around the internet in December 2017, after it was featured in a video posted to the "USA Politics Daily News" Facebook page:


The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, or DACA, refers to people who entered the United States as minors without documentation and grew up culturally American; DACA allows them to obtain driver's licenses, work permits, and sometimes in-state tuition. The program is in what immigration officials call a "wind-down" phase after President Donald Trump announced he was ending the program, putting at least 800,000 people at risk for deportation.

The "DACA" image has been circulating with similar claims since at least September 2017, but is from a protest more than a year before that. Repeat offender Truthfeed originally promoted this video in a since-deleted article which consisted of a few short sentences and the following tweet:

The image does show a group of protesters draped in Mexican flags. However, the object being burned is not an American flag, and there's no evidence that the pictured protesters are DACA recipients; DACA recipients originate from all over the world, not just Mexico, and at any rate typically do not advertise their status by wrapping themselves in Mexican flags.

This photograph was taken outside the California Republican Convention at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, California on 29 April 2016 by photographer Gabriella Angotti-Jones. The accompanying caption made no mention of the DACA program, the legal status of those pictured, and the burning object in the foreground was identified as a Trump piñata, not a flag.

Angotti-Jones captured a second image of this event which more clearly shows the burning object. SFist also took several photographs of protesters burning the effigy:

The claim that these protesters were participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program appears to have been completely invented by people trying to push a particular ideology. We read several different reports and found that DACA was not one of the focal points of this protest; rather,  protesters were angered by some of the comments Trump had made about the Mexican community:

Protesters linked arms on one side of the street blocking incoming traffic on Old Bayshore Highway, while a raucous crowd of several hundred people — some whose faces were covered with bandanas — waved Mexican flags on the other side of the street, chanting, “Shut down Trump.”

Trump’s numerous controversial comments throughout his presidential campaign, including those specifically targeting Mexicans, have enraged the Latino community, and have even led to violence breaking out at his rallies.

“His policies just aren’t right,” said Roberto Lopez, 21, who was dressed as a Mexican superhero with a mask.  “Just the way he talks about people, about Latinos and immigrants. He’s causing a lot of hate between the country. We’re at a time where we need to unite and he’s dividing us. It’s only going to get worse if he’s elected president.”

In fact, it doesn't appear that the "DACA" claim was attached to this photograph until September 2017, more than a year after this protest occurred. That was around the same time that President Trump announced that he would end the program, making it appear that the image's miscaptioning was not just a misunderstanding, but instead overt propaganda.


Barmann, Jay.   "Photo Du Jour: Trump Pinata Burned In Effigy."     SFist   29 April 2016.

SF Gate.   "Protesters Descend on Burlingame to Rail Against Trump."     30 April 2016.

CBS.   "Trump Speech At GOP Convention In Burlingame Met With Protests."     29 April 2016.

Diaz, Alejandro.   "Trump Visit to Bay Area Meets With Fierce Resistance."     El Tecolote.   2 May 2016.

LoBianco, Tom.   "Demonstrators storm California GOP convention to protest Trump."     CNN.   30 April 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.