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PolitiFact FL: Aliens at Bayside? Social media claims are astronomically wrong

Screengrab from Instagram

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

PolitiFact Instagram posts pants on fire

After a New Year’s incident at a Miami mall sparked a massive police response, social media users started spreading some out-of-this-world claims.

Videos circulating social media show dozens of police cars and shadowy figures at Bayside Marketplace, located about 5 miles from South Beach. Many people claimed these figures were not human, but extraterrestrial.

A Jan. 5 Instagram reel shared a screenshot of an X post that said, "I was at the Miami mall yesterday and the government is lying. There were no kids fighting. Everyone started panicking because these gray creatures were walking around."

The same Instagram account shared another reel, also Jan. 5, that said there were "rumors and witness reports that there were 7- to 10-feet tall creatures and beings running around the shopping area and attacking people."

Another Instagram user claimed that the police presence was in response to kids opening "a portal for alien creatures to walk through."

These Instagram posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But Miami police didn’t swarm the mall because E.T. went on a shopping spree.

Miami police officers responded to reports of a shooting Jan. 1 at Bayside Marketplace, the department told local and national news outlets. What sounded like gunshots was actually a group of at least 50 teenagers shooting fireworks at people and looting stores.

Police temporarily shut down roads near the mall and warned people to avoid the area because of "a large crowd of unruly juveniles." About an hour later, at 11:30 p.m., police said the roads were reopened.

Officers had trouble controlling the chaos at first and called all active police officers to the scene. That’s why there was a large police presence at the mall, Miami police officer Rafael Horta said in a video shared Jan. 5 on the department’s Instagram account.

Horta also addressed the alien claims: "There is now a video going viral of 8- to 10- foot aliens walking around Bayside. It’s actually just a person walking with a shadow. So I can confirm to you all here today right now that there are no aliens in Miami, in Bayside Marketplace at the moment."

We rate the claim that police responded to alien creatures at a Miami mall on Jan. 1 Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Sara Swann is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.