Fact Check: Atlanta Did NOT Deploy A 'Child Militia' During Protests

Hoax Alert

  • by: Jessica Ravitz
Fact Check: Atlanta Did NOT Deploy A 'Child Militia' During Protests No Kids Here

Did Atlanta deploy "a child militia" that was "fitted with riot shields and batons" during recent protests? No, that's not true: A video posted on Twitter alleges as much, but the National Guard has denied these claims, insisting that the pictured guard members meet the age, height and weight requirements necessary to serve.

The claim originated in a tweet published at 2:12 a.m. on May 30, 2020, (archived here) which opened:

"Atlanta has deployed a child militia at Lenox Mall fitted with riot shields and batons. What the actual fuck is going on?"

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Mon Jun 1 15:27:50 2020 UTC)

The shared video quickly went viral. At the time of this writing, it had been viewed 12.2 million times. But the video was shot at a downward angle, isn't very clear and shows four individuals, all wearing face shields, standing on different levels of ground with some appearing much taller than others -- all of which may have bolstered an illusion that those pictured were children.

The Georgia National Guard shot down accusations that it deploys minors, saying in a tweet that posted more than 10 hours after the video:

To become a service member in the Georgia National Guard you are required to be of legal age and that is 18 years old (17 with parents consent). The rumors of us having child Soldiers to assist local law enforcement in protecting lives and property is false."

Here's how this post appeared on social media:

The Georgia National Guard also slapped down the made-up scandal on Facebook, saying:

The rumors of underage Georgia Guardsmen are false. To become a service member in the Georgia National Guard, you are required to be of legal age and that is 18 years old (17 with parents consent)."

Here's how that post appeared on social media:

The rumors of underage Georgia Guardsmen are false. To become a service member in the Georgia National Guard, you are required to be of legal age and that is 18 years old (17 with parents consent).

Posted by Georgia National Guard on Saturday, May 30, 2020

Neither of these social media responses from the Georgia National Guard, however, confirmed that the individuals pictured were, in fact, guard members. So could these have been children deployed by some other entity? Or children in costume?

Lead Stories cleared up those questions with Desiree Bamba, the media relations coordinator for the Georgia Department of Defense and a spokeswoman for the Georgia National Guard. She confirmed in an email that the "individuals in the video are Georgia National Guard Soldiers with the 201st Regional Support Group." She also said that they "are both male and female" and that the minimum height requirement to serve is 58 inches, or four-foot-10-inches in height. The minimum weight required to serve, she added, is 91 pounds.

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, spoke to Lead Stories, too. He said the individuals in the video are "actual guardsmen who meet the minimum height and weight requirements to be soldiers."

According to Houk, Georgia isn't the only state that's faced accusations of using children on the frontlines. Video shot in Minneapolis was used to make similar accusations, as reported in this piece by Gizmodo.

The fact that anyone would make such claims is absurd, Houk said, adding: "What military organization in the United States in its right mind would put a child in a uniform?"

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  Jessica Ravitz

Jessica Ravitz, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is a former senior writer at CNN Digital. For more than a decade, she wrote longform narratives and profiles on topics ranging from gun violence, sexual assault and suicide to women’s health, spirituality and race.

 

Read more about or contact Jessica Ravitz

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