A Look at Far-Right Extremists in January 6 US Capitol Riot

The first public hearing of the US House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol has shed light on two far-right extremist groups whose members are accused of plotting weeks to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Senior leaders and members of the “Proud Boys” and “Oath Guards” have been accused of a seditious conspiracy in what authorities have described as an orchestrated effort to sabotage election results and keep former President Donald Trump in office.

Here is a look at the two groups and the charges against them:

who are they?

The Proud Boys describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club of “Western chauvinists”. Prior to the January 6 rebellion, members of the Proud Boys were known for their battles with anti-fascist activists at rallies and protests.

Less than two months before the 2020 election, members of the group celebrated Trump’s refusal to openly condemn the group during his first debate with Democrat Joe Biden. Instead, Trump said the proud boys should “stand by and stand by.”

The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by Stuart Rhodes, a former US Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate. The anti-government group is recruiting military, police, and current and former responders. Its members pledge to “take the oath that all the army and police take to defend the constitution against all enemies, outside and inside,” and to defend the constitution, according to its website.

What are they accused of doing?

The messages and social media posts detailed in court documents show how members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were discussing as early as November 2020 the need to fight to keep Trump in office.

Days after the election, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, then president of the Proud Boys, posted messages online calling on his followers to fight the results.

“No quarter. Raise the black flag,” Tario said in one post. In another message, he wrote that the proud boys would become “political prisoners” if Biden “steals the election,” warning that the group “will not go quietly.”

“The media constantly accuse us of wanting to start a civil war,” Tario wrote in another message. “Beware what you’re asking of f—k we don’t want to start one…but we’re sure f—k finish.”

Shortly before the riots, an unnamed person sent Tarrio a document that laid out plans to occupy a few “vital buildings” in Washington on January 6, including the House and Senate office buildings around the Capitol, authorities say. The document entitled “The Return of 1776” called for “as many people as possible” in order to “show our politicians we the responsible people”.

Tario was arrested in Washington two days before the riots and charged with vandalizing a Black Lives Matter sign in a historic black church during a December 2020 protest. He was ordered to stay away from Washington and not at the Capitol on January 6. .

However, other proud boys met at the Washington Monument on the morning of the riots and marched to the Capitol before Trump finished his speech near the White House. When an angry mob overran the Capitol, the Proud Boys members dismantled the metal barriers, directed the crowd members and drove into the building, authorities said.

Authorities say the station’s guards spent weeks discussing trying to overturn the election results, making plans for battle, and procuring weapons. Two days after the election, Rhodes told his followers in an encrypted group chat to prepare their minds, bodies, and souls for “civil war.”

Rhodes urged members to go to Washington to tell Trump “that the people are behind him,” and hoped Trump would call in the militia to help stay in power, authorities say. Oath Keepers wrote repeatedly in chats about the possibility of violence and the need, and Rhodes allegedly wrote in one text, “to frighten ‘Congress’.”

Prosecutors say the group stashed its rifles in a hotel outside Washington as part of a “rapid reaction force” that would assist them if needed. Days before Jan. 6, one of the defendants suggested acquiring a boat to ferry “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River to their “waiting arms,” ​​prosecutors said.

On January 6, the camera over the shoulders of the camera are seen in camouflage combat gear as they make their way through the crowd to the Capitol in a stacked, military-style formation. Rhodes is not accused of going inside the Capitol, but he was seen huddled outside with several department guards after the riot, authorities said.

What was revealed at the session?

Thursday’s House committee hearing highlighted how proud boys were energized by Trump’s “stand by, stand by” comment. A member of the Proud Boys told the committee that Trump’s remark had sent membership in the group skyrocketing.

The commission also showed how members of the Proud Boys were among those who led the attack into the Capitol, marching there while Trump was still speaking on the Ellipse.

Video shown during the hearing showed Dominic Pezola, a former Marine known as “Spaz” from Rochester, New York, used a stolen shield from Capitol riot police to break a window, allowing the first rioters to enter the building. Pezola was charged with conspiracy to incite sedition in the attack.

A documentary filmmaker who was with the Proud Boys on January 6 testified about witnessing a meeting the day before the riots between Rhodes and Tario in an underground garage.

No new details were released about what the two leaders of the extremist group spoke about during the hearing, and prosecutors only said that one of the meeting participants “pointed at the Capitol.” The publicly released video of the meeting doesn’t reveal much about their discussion.

The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were charged in separate indictments, and the Department of Justice did not charge them with conspiring with each other.

But prosecutors suggested there had been at least some contact between the two groups. In one message, a man described by authorities as the leader of the Florida branch of the guard department discussed forming an “alliance” and coordinating with the proud boys before the riots, authorities said in court documents.

What did the leaders say in defense?

Rhodes said in interviews with right-wing hosts that there was no plan to storm the Capitol and that members who did so went rogue. But he continued to push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, while posts on the Oath Keepers website portrayed the group as a victim of political persecution.

The defendants at Oath Keeper argued in court that the only plan was to provide security at the assembly before the riots or to protect themselves from potential attacks from anti-leftist activists. Text messages disclosed in court documents show oath-keepers discussing plans to provide security on January 6 for Trump’s longtime political friend Roger Stone and Stop the Theft organizer Ali Alexander.

Defense attorney Neb Hasan said Tario did not direct or encourage anyone to enter the Capitol or engage in any violence or destruction on January 6. Hassan also described the prosecutors’ arguments about the garage meeting with Rhodes as “frivolous at best.” Tario went to the hotel next door to get information about a potential attorney to represent him in the vandalism case, Hassan said in a court filing.

A jury trial of Tario and four other Proud Boys accused of seditious conspiracy is scheduled to begin August 8. The trial of Rhodes and four other members of Oath Keepers and Co. is scheduled to begin on September 26. 20 years in prison.

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