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How Jumaane Williams Didn't Get Arrested

A case study in the birth and death of a Twitter rumor in NYC.


  1. On the evening of March 13, protesters and cops again clashed in Flatbush over the police shooting of 16-year-old Kimani "Kiki" Gray. The NYPD initially claimed Gray pointed a gun at plainclothes officers, spurring them to fire on him, but a civilian witness came forward to say the teenager, who died after being struck by seven bullets, had nothing in his hands when he was shot. 

  2. Gray's death in the March 9 shooting sparked a riot -- and a confrontation between Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. Williams was on the scene in Flatbush tonight.
  3. Williams' tone later changed. 

  4. Later, tweets started hitting -- and getting amplified -- largely based on a livefeed operated by protestors.
  5. And the story -- which might have sounded plausible considering Williams was arrested by NYPD officers in a highly publicized incident during the 2011 West Indian Day parade -- started growing.
  6. At 11:01, Williams -- who hadn't tweeted in about an hour, possibly fueling the rumors that he had been taken into custody -- re-emerged on Twitter. 
  7. But the cycle was already in motion, with a lot of people following the feeds -- myself included -- catching up with Williams' tweets minutes after they appeared... which is the equivalent of years later in the Twitterverse.