The claim: Black Lives Matter caused Tempe, Ariz., bridge train derailment.
At the end of July, a freight train derailed over Tempe Town Lake in Arizona, resulting in a large fire and the partial destruction of the city's iconic 100-year-old bridge.
Following the incident, half a dozen local, state and federal agencies — including the National Transportation Safety Board — began conducting investigations into what caused the derailment. Union Pacific also has been part of the investigations.
The investigations have reached no conclusions yet, but that hasn't stopped people from taking to social media to speculate.
One Facebook post, which has been shared more than 1,000 times, claimed an unidentified cleanup crew member blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for causing the derailment.
The post reads: "For those that think BLM is a peaceful movement ... it's not, it's a terrorist group. I've been involved in the derailment clean up and the place has been crawling with federal agents. Someone laid propane tanks on the rail tracks on the Tempe bridge the night of the BLM protest. This caused them to explode when the train hit them and dragging them on fire igniting the rail road ties. Bet you won't hear this from the media."
The person who posted the accusation did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
What do we know about the cause of the derailment?
The train, made up of 102 cars, derailed in the early morning of July 29. There was a leak of cyclohexanone into a dry area, and no one was injured.
A Black Lives Matter protest for Dalvin Hollins and Dion Johnson — who were both shot and killed by law enforcement in metro Phoenix — was held in the area two days before the derailment, leading some to speculate that protesters may be to blame.
Union Pacific and the NTSB are among those conducting investigations into the derailment.
"We are not aware of evidence suggesting criminal activity in connection with the derailment," Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan said. "Relevant information, if any, would be in the possession of federal, state and/or local law enforcement agencies."
The Tempe Police Department declined to comment and directed inquiries to the NTSB.
Keith Holloway, a spokesman for NTSB, said the agency's investigation into the incident is still in its early stages, noting that the agency conducts investigations from a safety perspective.
"A typical NTSB investigation can take 12-24 months before a cause is determined. NTSB does not speculate and will release additional information when it is available. ... If there are issues regarding criminality, those questions should be directed to law enforcement authorities. No new information from NTSB is available at this time," he said.
On the day after the derailment, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said: "At this time there is nothing to suggest that this is anything other than a structural derailment. But we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that our investigators are on ground, preserving and collecting anything that would be of use if this rose to a criminal investigation.”
On June 26, about 10 to 12 Union Pacific rail cars derailed on the same bridge, the Arizona Republic reported.
"Rail and bridge ties were damaged, the line was repaired and reopened on June 28," Union Pacific spokeswoman Lupe Valdez said. "The bridge also was inspected on July 9, and those inspection documents are being handed to federal authorities involved in the investigation."
BLM denies involvement in derailment
Zarra Teacola, a minister of activism for Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix, said the accusations are completely unfounded, citing the Tempe police chief's comments and previous derailment incidents on the same bridge.
"We're not a new organization; we've been around for years and you can look at the trajectory of our work," Teacola said. "We've never done what (the post) is talking about, we've never harmed anyone, we've only been harmed."
Teacola said the accusation follows a pattern of scapegoating oppressed people, in this case Black people, when they take a stand for human rights, which is the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I think it's part of a common theme when oppressed people, especially Black people, rise up and say 'Stop oppressing us,' they try to twist the script and say that somehow we are the ones that are causing harm," she said. "(The accusation is) completely unfounded and it's the continuation of anti-blackness that has existed in this country since it was founded."
Our rating: False
The claim in the post has been rated FALSE. There is no evidence to support the idea that the Black Lives Matter movement is to blame for the train derailment over Tempe Town Lake. Investigations by various agencies are in the early stages, meaning any viral theories are purely speculative, because there is no evidence to support the claims.
Additionally, the day after the derailment, Tempe's police chief said there was nothing to suggest the incident was anything other than a structural derailment. Black Lives Matter Phoenix Metro also denies the allegations.
Our fact check sources:
- Union Pacific spokesman
- National Transportation Safety Board spokesman
- Black Lives Matter Metro Phoenix spokeswoman
- AZCentral, July 29, Freight train derails over Tempe Town Lake, part of bridge collapses
- AZCentral, July 31, NTSB, Union Pacific among agencies investigating Tempe train crash
- AZCentral, July 29, What we know: Tempe Town Lake freight train derailment
- ABC 15, July 30, Update on Tempe Town Lake Derailment live stream
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No evidence BLM, Arizona train derailment are related