Security was bolstered in Washington, D.C., on March 4 after intelligence uncovered a possible plot to "breach the Capitol" by adherents of QAnon, who reportedly believed that Donald Trump would return to power on that date.
Some followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory believed Trump was cheated out of a second term and that March 4 would mark his victorious return to power to confront a secret global cabal of satanist liberals.
"We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4," the US Capitol Police said in a statement.
A handful of conspiracy theorists reportedly did show up to watch what they believed would be Trump's "true inauguration." But there was no large gathering of QAnon supporters and the day passed without serious incident. A new report in Politico sheds light on why.
In the days leading up to March 4, many influential voices in the QAnon movement warned that stories of Trump's true inauguration were a set up and a potential "false flag" operation.
"FOR ALL YOU SHILLS, MSM LURKERS AND NORMIES VISITING TODAY - Q HAS TOLD US MARCH 4 IS A TRAP," a user posted on GreatAwakening.win, an online forum associated with QAnon. "THEREFORE ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS NOT US!!"
The conspiracy theory about March 4 actually came from another conspiratorial movement: sovereign citizens.
"The entire thing was based on a misreading of a law from 1871, and even major QAnon influencers weren't buying into it, actively trying to persuade their followers that it was a hoax designed to make their movement look bad," Mike Rothschild, a QAnon researcher, explained to Politico. "It really had nothing in common with the January 6 insurrection — that was the culmination of years of Trump conspiracy theories that voter fraud was the only way Democrats could win the election."
The acting US House Sergeant at Arms, Timothy Blodgett, reportedly sent a memo to members of Congress last week advising them of potential protests surrounding March 4.
He said in the memo, however, that the significance of the date "has reportedly declined among various groups in recent days" and that violent protests are no longer anticipated.
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security saw the threat as serious enough to issue a joint bulletin Tuesday night warning of potential unrest on March 4 and March 6, DHS senior official Melissa Smislova testified to Congress.
With additional reporting from AFP