To liberal America, Genevieve Peters became an object of national scorn when she livestreamed herself refusing to wear a mask in a Trader Joe's store in Rancho Palo Verdes, Calif. in May 2020, causing a clerk to call the police— an early example of defiance against COVID restrictions that has long since lost its novelty, but was then worthy of mention in the New York Times.
To many others, Peters was a hero with a growing social-media profile. The Trader Joe's incident helped cement her position as a prominent social media influencer who helped coalesce the burgeoning far-right subculture in southern California that drew together anti-lockdown resentment with fanatical MAGA loyalty, interwoven with enforcement muscle from Trump's violent followers, the Proud Boys.
Even before the Trader Joe's incident, Peters had posed for a photo with Trump confidante Roger Stone and Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio at the American Priority Conference at Trump National Doral Miami, and earned a spot in the world of minor MAGA celebrity, where influencers like her acted as a conduit between Trump's inner circle and the street-level activism that fueled his cult of personality. In southern California, Peters worked closely with Latinos 4 Trump; she's called Elsa Aldeguer, the organization's president, her "bestie." Like Peters, Aldeguer has also forged close ties to the Proud Boys.
Peters' Facebook page is studded with selfies showing her standing with an array of far-right and MAGA players. Dressed in a tricorn hat, Peters joined a group of Proud Boys armed with assault-style rifles for a Second Amendment rally at the Michigan state capitol in Lansing in September 2020. If that wasn't edgy enough, she also posed inside the Capitol lobby with a group of young men open-carrying rifles and wearing Hawaiian shirts associated with the violent Boogaloo movement. Her selfie collection with MAGA figures is no less prolific: Rudy Giuliani in December 2020, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in October 2019, Trump campaign digital media director Brad Parscale in November 2019, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk in January 2020, Trump campaign surrogate Mark Burns in October 2019, and multiple appearances with conspiracy theorist and unsuccessful congressional candidate Laura Loomer. And a July 2019 photo shows her with future US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who is a moderator on the Family America Project Facebook group that Peters administers.
Peters' relevance as an influencer and organizer in the MAGA universe was enhanced by the fact that she claims ties to two different regions of the country. In August 2020, she returned to her home state of Michigan to help mobilize support for Trump's critical effort in the swing state, which he ultimately lost. She made the news again, in Dec. 5, when she livestreamed a night-time protest outside Michigan Secretary of State Joycelyn Benson's home; police said some of the protesters were carrying weapons.
As pro-Trump rallies in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona, along with Washington DC in November and December, built momentum for the massive gathering in DC on Jan. 6, Peters fanned excitement and assisted with logistics. On the eve of the Dec. 12 Jericho March, Peters marched with the Proud Boys. Following the Dec. 12 rally, Peters celebrated her cross-country organizing efforts with a photo of herself with Aldeguer and others gathered around a barroom table in a Facebook post captioned, "Connecting my Awesome Cali Patriots with my Awesome Michigan Patriots!"
Back in Michigan, Peters helped organize a bus that departed from the Detroit area for DC on Jan. 4. It is unclear how the bus trip was financed, but Articia Bomer, an unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate, introduced Peters to a reporter during the trip as "someone that's head of this trip." In DC, Peters stayed in the Willard Hotel, which also provided lodging to her friend Aldeguer and high-profile luminaries like Roger Stone. On Jan. 6, when she advanced to the west plaza outside the Capitol, Peters wore a plastic lanyard clipped to the collar of her coat, showing that she had VIP access to the "Save America March" organized by Women for America First."
Peters has not been charged with any crime in connection with the assault on the US Capitol, but dozens of Proud Boys, the brawling nationalist street gang she has celebrated and promoted, have been arrested. They include Joe Biggs, a national Proud Boys leader whom she sheltered with a parasol at the July 2019 "Demand Free Speech" rally in DC. Biggs is charged with conspiracy to corruptly obstruct Congress' certification of the electoral vote and to obstruct law enforcement, alongside three other Proud Boys leaders.
Peters' association with the Proud Boys appears to be more than just happenstance. Joining the Proud Boys as they marched through downtown DC chanting "F*** antifa" on Dec. 11, she offered an enthusiastic endorsement: "Bam, bam, these are my people right here.... People that love America, people that love our country, people that love our president.... That's what I like: real men! Real men!"
But Peters is even closer with another Jan. 6 defendant who is accused of assaulting law enforcement and other offenses. Enrique Tarrio reportedly told the alt-right news site National File that David Dempsey was rejected for membership in the Proud Boys because of "his history of violent acts," but Peters described him as a "friend" and "patriot brother" while soliciting contributions donations to help cover his legal expenses after he sprayed counter-protesters with bear repellent during a melee at the Santa Monica Pier in October 2019.
Peters could not be reached for comment for this story.
Peters herself described the events at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as "amazing." Recounting the day's events during a livestream while walking back to her hotel room on Jan. 6, Peters described how she and a friend used a mobile sound rig to thank Trump supporters for being there and to declare, "This is our 1776."
"We were getting word that they had stormed the Capitol," Peters recounted. "We were getting word that they actually got in. And see, this area that we were actually in, no one was supposed to be in because it was all completely cut off and shut down for the inauguration. And they were scaffolding and building everything."
After Trump supporters retreated from the Capitol and reported being pepper-sprayed, Peters exulted about the size of the crowd. "And it was really… an amazing show of force, an amazing show of patriotism, everything that you want," she said. "We felt incredibly proud."
Emphasizing her sense of justification again, she said, "At this point, like I said, we had completely controlled the entire Capitol. I mean, the Capitol, the rafters, everything, and I've got tons of pictures to share with you guys. Definitely sends a message, there's no question that we didn't send a strong message about not accepting his fraudulent election."
While Peters took a selfie from the plaza showing Trump supporters thronging the scaffolding and the Lower West Terrace, her friend, David Dempsey was engaged in an ongoing battle with police at the mouth of the Lower West Terrace tunnel.
Citing an open-source video archived on the seditionhunters.org website, the FBI wrote in a charging document that the 34-year-old Dempsey appears to have sprayed officers with mace and bludgeoned them with a crutch and a pole. Dempsey was arrested with another California man — Jeffrey Scott Brown, 54, of Santa Ana — in late August.
Dempsey made it clear what he hoped the rioters would accomplish in an extended rant filmed next to a makeshift gallows outside the Capitol.
Quickly moving past the interviewer's suggestion that the gallows was a "work of art," Dempsey said, "This is necessary. Like I said, they say, 'We need to start arresting people. We need to start putting them behind bars.' No, we don't need to waste the taxpayer dollars on these worthless cretins who are treasonous to our country. We need to decriminalize hemp and marijuana, turn all that shit into rope when we're done with it. And string all these worthless bastards up from the top of these tree lines, the rafters, the rooftops, the statues."
Dempsey continued his profanity-laden rant by naming a string of Democratic officials and appointees as worthy of death.
"I say we should have been doing this a long f***ing time ago," he said. "Them worthless f***ing shitholes like Jerry Nadler and f***ing Pelosi, Clapper, Comey, f***ing those pieces of garbage, you know, Obama, all these dudes, Clinton, f*** all these pieces of shits. That's what they need. They don't need a jail cell. They need to hang from these mother***ers while everybody videotapes, and it f***ing spreads on YouTube or BitChute or whatever f***ing social media there is."
It remains unclear whether Peters and Dempsey met up or otherwise communicated on Jan. 6, but Dempsey's reputation for violence preceded him to the US Capitol.
Following his arrest by the Santa Monica police for bear-spraying an anti-Trump protest organized by RefuseFascism.org in October 2019, a local newspaper reported that Dempsey was a felon, and could face up to eight years in prison if convicted. But Peters defended him as "trying to disperse lunatic rabid, dangerous leftist [sic] from injuring other Patriots during a scuffle." She added, "I saw the footage, I know his heart! He is a good man!"
Dempsey's charge of using teargas as a weapon was still pending in California at the time he showed up at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and allegedly sprayed mace at police officers. Ultimately, Dempsey was convicted of the state offense in Los Angeles County Superior Court on May 17, 2021.
Dempsey was not the only right-wing street fighter that Peters publicly supported. In December 2019, a man named Joseph Krongchana was charged as the second individual involved in the bear-spray attack.
Peters documented her support for Krongchana with a June 17, 2020 Facebook post that showed her seated around a restaurant table with Krongchana, Dempsey and Aldeguer.
"Celebratory Breakfast after court for Joseph!" she wrote. "Thank you all for your prayers! One more to go! Continued prayers! Love my Patriot fam!"
Krongchana would be convicted of the same offense as Dempsey in Los Angeles Superior Court exactly a year later.
They even hit the road together: In July 2020, Peters posted a photo of herself posing alongside Aldeguer and another southern California pro-Trump activist, Leonor Ferris, on a roadside in Colorado. A smiling Dempsey was behind them throwing up an A-OK hand sign.