Since Trump had signaled his intention to be at the rally via Twitter on Dec. 27 , the Kremers grappled with new considerations. First, the rally would have to be moved from Freedom Plaza to the Ellipse. Second, and more pressing, Trump’s involvement aggravated a growing feud among the various organizers and MAGA hangers-on about who would get to share the stage with the president.
More granular details also demanded attention this day — Jan. 1, 2021 — with the rally five days away. One decidedly practical problem: organizers needed marshals who could greet the thousands of people expected to show up to support Trump — and direct them to bathrooms when nature trumped activism.
The solution? Tap a willing reserve of militant Trump supporters known as Three Percenters who had shown up at a previous rally organized in D.C. by Women for America First.
Such frantic preparations for the ambitious rally, to be named “Save America,” also necessitated that Women for America First relay signals in two directions — one up to the White House, and the other down to the militants, some of whom would wind up joining the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol in Trump’s name.
From the time of the president’s announcement that he would be at the Save America rally, Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, played an increasingly important role and began communicating directly with the Kremers.
“One additional thing we need to know about is volunteers,” Kylie Jane Kremer said in a group text to Pierson on Jan. 1 at 4:44 p.m. “Do we need to provide those or have they already started it? We can do so but don’t want to overstep.”
Added Kylie Jane Kremer: “I’m literally terrified to ask any questions to anyone so as they come, I will send your way.”
Pierson deferred to Kylie Jane Kremer.
“I think you guys can take over volunteers,” she replied. “Are you good with that?”
Pierson suggested recruiting 30 volunteers, including “10 mature types” to serve as marshals.
Amy Kremer had someone in mind for the job of coordinating the marshals: Charles Bowman.
Bowman joined the bus tour at the request of Dustin Stockton, one of the lead organizers, to help out on the advance team.
“Ladies, I just talked to Bowman, and he’s going to get us 10 marshals,” Kremer announced in a new group text on Jan. 2. “He’s on this text message. Thank you, Bowman.”
“Do you want us to handle the 30 volunteers under the marshals?” Kylie Jane Kremer asked. “You will be the lead marshal, unless you want someone else to be.”
“Sit tight,” Bowman responded. “Let me see if I have 40 people who will pass the background check.”
Amy Kremer tapped Bowman for the job because “he’s one of those people that know everybody,” she later told the January 6th Committee. And Bowman moved quickly.
Most notably, he called Jeremy Liggett, the founder of a Florida-based Three Percenter group called Guardians of Freedom, to ask for names of volunteers to cover marshal duties.
RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Our best face’: How ‘peaceful’ MAGA leader Amy Kremer cultivated ties to a violent Three Percenter group
A former law enforcement officer and firearms instructor, Liggett and a group of loosely affiliated Three Percenters — an authoritarian movement whose adherents view themselves as revolutionary vanguard in the mold of the original American patriots, and the U.S. government as the latter-day equivalent of the British crown — had assisted with security during a previous pro-Trump rally organized by Women for America First in D.C. on Dec. 12. Bowman later acknowledged to the committee that Liggett had added him to a Guardians of Freedom Telegram chat so that he “could get a feel for what the group is.”
Amy Kremer’s enlistment of Three Percenters to serve as marshals at the Ellipse rally underscores a critical component of the bus tour and D.C. rallies culminating on Jan. 6 that her group organized.
Despite Women for America First’s efforts to project a “peaceful” image and whitewash the violence as an unexpected byproduct of an otherwise law-abiding Jan. 6 rally, an exhaustive review of depositions, interviews and phone texts by Raw Story reveals that the group, particularly Stockton, cultivated ties with violent militants almost from the start.
This is the second in a three-part series detailing the links among the White House, Women for America First and pro-Trump militants. (Read Part 1 here.)
Liggett didn’t need much prodding. He had already booked hotel rooms by the time Bowman called him requesting volunteers, and his group had announced plans to come to D.C. for Jan. 6.
On Christmas Eve, Guardians of Freedom had circulated a flyer headlined “Calling All Patriots!!” that announced that “the March for Trump Bus tour, powered by Women for America First” was “rolling into Washington, D.C. to demand transparency and election integrity” on Jan. 6.
“I got called by Charles and said, ‘Hey, we need guys to marshal. We need volunteers to marshal — marshal the event,’” Liggett recalled. “And I said, ‘Okay. No problem.’ And I said, ‘I’ll get people together to marshal the event.’ And he said, ‘All right. You know, it’s a voluntary basis.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine.’
Four hours later, Bowman sent the Women for America First organizers a list of 10 people, including Liggett.
Kremer said she didn’t know any of the people on the list, and had no idea they were associated with the Three Percenter movement, although she also told the January 6th Committee that she was familiar with Three Percenters based on hearing Bowman and Stockton discuss the movement.
White House hotline
While Bowman was enlisting members of Guardians of Freedom to serve as marshals at the Ellipse rally on behalf of Women for America First, Pierson was coordinating with the White House.
Caroline Wren, a prominent fundraiser for the Trump 2020 campaign and Republican National Committee, had lined up a $3 million pledge from Publix heiress Julie Fancelli to foot the bill for the rally.
As a purse-holder of sorts, Wren exerted increasing influence over the event, and the Kremer mother-daughter duo viewed her as a threat. They found an ally — Pierson — who shared their desire to keep rival organizer Ali Alexander and other more controversial speakers, such as InfoWars host Alex Jones and political consultant Roger Stone, off the Ellipse stage.
As the new year arrived, the fragile alliance neared a breaking point. About five hours after Pierson delegated responsibility for marshals to Women for America First, Kylie Jane Kremer raised a more pressing matter with her.
“We are team players and are grateful to work with y’all,” Kremer told Pierson in a text at 10:19 p.m. on Jan. 1. “But it’s out of line to tell me we’re only here because Caroline got us here and we have no say whatsoever.”
After some back-and-forth discussion, Pierson tried to assuage Kremer’s concerns.
“Bottom line, I’ve set you up will [sic] the entire trump team all the way down to a ‘Trump’ looking website,” Pierson said. “This isn’t grassroots anymore.
“So, are you used as a pass through?” Pierson continued. “YES! Your brand hosting the President of the United States on Whit House [sic] grounds on a historic day. Win!”
She added: “You will be able to claim that with the highest production reel possible for donor recruitment.”
After reassuring Kylie Jane Kremer, Pierson found herself mediating between Wren and the Kremers again the following day.
At 4:15 p.m. on Jan. 2, Wren emailed Pierson a list that included Alexander, Jones and Stone as speakers at the Ellipse event — a proposition that Pierson would later characterize as a “deal breaker” in her interview with the January 6th Committee.
To resolve the conflict, Pierson decided to go directly to the White House.
“Would you mind giving me a call regarding this January 6th event?” Pierson texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to her recollection to the January 6th Committee. “Things have gotten crazy, and I desperately need some direction.”
Pierson said she told Meadows that Wren was trying to include Jones, Alexander “and all these crazy people on the president’s stage, and that’s a disaster.” She said that during the conversation she also briefed Meadows “that some people were going to the Capitol,” later adding that the chief of staff “agreed” with that idea.
Pierson said Meadows told her that no one had spoken to him about speakers.
He supported her position.
“So, why don’t you just take this over to make sure that this doesn’t go bad,” Pierson recalled Meadows telling her.
At 10:49 p.m. on Jan. 2, Pierson sent an email to Wren and Taylor Budowich, another senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign. Pierson noted in the email that she had spent the day on the phone with the rally organizers and had received guidance from the White House.
“POTUS expectations are to have something intimate at the Ellipse, and call on everyone to march to the Capitol,” Pierson told Wren and Budowich. “This actually works out because Ali’s group is already setting up at the Capitol, and SCOTUS is on the way.”
But Wren wasn’t giving up. She wanted to secure speaker slots for allies.
On Jan. 3, Pierson texted Meadows again, saying she was “done” and complaining that Wren “has decided to move forward with the original psycho list,” based on apparent approval from White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino.
Pierson said Meadows called her and recommended that she “talk it over with Scavino.”
Pierson reached Scavino on the phone that night. He told her she should speak directly to the president.
“You just need to come talk to him, and you let him put this to bed,” Pierson recalled Scavino saying.
Pierson, who was recovering from a back injury, soon found herself booking a flight from Dallas to Washington, D.C.
Arriving the next morning, she sat across the table from Trump by afternoon.
Seated across from him in the dining room off the Oval Office. Pierson gave Trump her list of proposed speakers. Trump nixed almost all of them, which at least resolved — in the Kremers’ favor — the question of whether Alexander and Jones would rank among his opening acts.
Pierson said Trump told her he wanted a few members of Congress to speak, with the event broken up by big blocks of music — a hybrid between a political rally and party.
Trump himself raised the issue of a march to the Capitol.
“Are people going to the Capitol?” Trump asked, according to Pierson.
“Yes, there are some people going to the Capitol,” she replied. “There’s a permit for a stage at the Capitol.”
“Well, I should walk with the people,” Trump said.
Pierson and a presidential aide tried to discourage Trump from walking to the Capitol. But Pierson, who declined to comment for this story when reached by phone, said Trump cut her off and asserted the National Guard should help secure his route.
The meeting ended. Trump was about to leave for a campaign rally in Georgia. The plan to deploy the National Guard as a protective escort was never executed.
‘Go forth and do great things’
The fact that Women for America First lined up a group of Three Percenters acting as marshals at the Ellipse rally on Jan. 6, at roughly the same time Pierson was confirming speakers and Trump’s desire for people to walk to the Capitol after the event, wasn’t a fluke.
Guardians of Freedom and other militants had been hovering around a previous pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., that was organized by Women for America First — particularly one of its lead organizers, Dustin Stockton.
Stockton made no secret of his enthusiasm for the Three Percenter movement, despite Women for America First’s conspicuous efforts to project safe optics.
“The optics that we were trying to project was not, this is a paramilitary group looking to take over,” Stockton told the January 6th Committee in December 2021, describing the Dec. 12, 2020, rally. “This is a professional group that you can come have — that you could, Tea Party-style, come have a safe, productive time, right, airing your grievances with people who are like-minded.”
But at the time of the rally, Stockton was flaunting his links to Three Percenters by toasting his “III% brothers.”
A photo taken from the Dec. 12 rally showed a grinning Stockton jammed into an elevator with seven other men. Some of them wore tactical vests and balaclavas that concealed most of their faces.
Among them: Charles Bowman and Matthew Robinson, a former Proud Boy who, like Bowman, was from Florida.
“I was in some never-forget photos on Saturday, but the photo Bowman took of us on the elevator with our III% brothers might just top them all,” Bowman gushed in a Substack article published four days after the Dec. 12 rally.
Photo of Charles Bowman (front left) and Dustin Stockton (back right) published on Stockton's Substack. Via "Tyrant's Curse" Substack
Though the Dec. 12 rally might have been a high point, Stockton’s enthusiasm for the Three Percenter movement was no passing interest.
Seven months after the insurrection, Stockton would make a direct endorsement of Three Percenters, Oath Keepers and, albeit subtly, QAnon — all groups heavily represented among those arrested on charges related to the attack on the Capitol.
“Now more than ever, I encourage people to join or start patriot groups dedicated to preserving the Constitution,” Stockton would write on his Substack in July 2021. “It’s the perfect time to attend an Oath Keepers meeting, join a III% training, or get involved in an Anon research group.”
Referring to Three Percenters specifically, Stockton said, “There are lots of independent groups across the country that organize under the iconic III% patch. The best of them offer a healthy dose of range time, training and community service. Groups worth joining have membership that includes community leaders, professionals, and current/former law enforcement.”
Security measures in D.C. on Dec. 12, when Women for America First’s rally at Freedom Plaza vied with a competing Jericho March on the National Mall, gave the organizers further exposure to the militant groups.
In a phone text to Kylie Jane Kremer at 2:01 p.m. on Dec. 12, Bowman said, “Three-quarters of Proud Boys are at monument now. So if antifa is going to come in and try to break the box, it will be now.”
Asked about the text by the January 6th Committee, Bowman was unable to explain where he obtained information about the movements of the Proud Boys, although video of the group at that location had been shared on social media around 1:30 p.m.
“I’m sure I was just regurgitating something,” Bowman told investigators.
Kylie Jane Kremer dismissed the Proud Boys as “very much a fringe group,” as she told committee investigators a year after the insurrection.
As such, she said, Women for America First wanted to make “a distinction between, I guess, with some of the fringe-type people in the conservative movement just as there are fringe-type people, you know, on the left.”
And yet other militant groups, including Guardians of Freedom, Oath Keepers and 1st Amendment Praetorian — a volunteer security group that had worked with Ali Alexander — made an impression at the Dec. 12 rally hosted by Women for America First, according to Jason Funes, a former Trump campaign worker and former Department of Interior staffer who helped Women for America First with the bus tour and D.C. rallies.
“I barely had to [time] to reach and network the security teams that day,” Funes told the January 6th Committee. “So, if this person telling me that person’s good and that person’s telling me this person’s good, okay, fine. I don’t know if they’re Oath Keepers, if they’re Praetorian group, or they’re Guardians of Freedom or Three Percent — I don’t even — I heard of most of those groups for the first time when I was doing the D.C. events, right?”
Funes told the committee he didn’t think Amy Kremer knew about the militant groups buzzing around the Women for America First rally on Dec. 12, but he was more inclined to think Kylie Jane Kremer was aware.
“Oh, if Amy would’ve found out and known — listen, Kylie, maybe, like I said, she’s a little young, ambitious, and maybe just got led along by Dustin and Charles that they had it, right, and there was going to be just kind of their own things or whatever they were doing,” Funes said. “Like, they were going to do it anyway is the f***ing thing, okay? That’s how they f***ing roll. All right?
“But if Amy would’ve found out, she would be pissed that that would be the case, that, we would ever even be trying to coordinate and do some s***,” he added.
Kylie Jane Kremer responded to a Twitter direct message from Raw Story by providing the email for Christopher Barron, Women for America First's publicist. Barron did not respond to multiple voicemails and emails.
Women for America First made a point to hire professional security, but they agreed to allow 1st Amendment Praetorian to “act as a secondary barrier,” Stockton told the committee.
He emphasized that there was no effort to discourage volunteer security, as long as it didn’t hurt the optics of the rally.
“But it’s what the optics look like from the stage, which is projected out to the world through the cameras, and also to the people who are there,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have those people to discourage, like, possible counter-protester attacks. But it wasn’t the image that we were trying to project.”
Stockton made no mention during his interview with congressional investigators of the fact that the informal security cohort included members of Guardians of Freedom, a group founded by an associate of his friend, Bowman. Bowman told the committee that to the best of his recollection, Jeremy Liggett helped with security on Dec. 12.
Tyler Bensch, a 20-year-old from Casselberry, Fla, who would later be linked to Liggett by the FBI as a member of the so-called “B Squad,” posted a photo on Facebook of himself dressed in a helmet, goggles, body armor, military fatigues and a gas mask standing in the middle of a street in Washington, D.C., with the Capitol in the background, according to a witness.
Guardians of Freedom associate Tyler Bensch in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, 2020. U.S. Department of Justice
“Listen, American patriots thought that by dressing up in bulletproof vests and being the militia-type of people, that sent a good message and representation that, you know, the event is safe and secure,” Funes said. “And if that’s all they have to keep us safe and secure, I’m going to use anybody I can to keep people safe and secure. I don’t know who you are.”
Funes complained that he was cut out of security meetings.
“Whatever — fine,” he said. “So go forth and do great things, man. I don’t want to know the details. But if you’re telling me that we’re going to be safer because you’re doing this, fine. I had no idea what it was going to lead up to.”
‘I will have a ton of men with me’
An abiding question surrounding the multiple investigations into the events of Jan. 6 is the degree to which the militant groups — primarily the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, but to a lesser degree Three Percenters also — coordinated among each other in advance of the insurrection.
An exhibit in the government’s seditious conspiracy prosecution of the Oath Keepers last year confirmed all three.
As noted in the January 6th Committee’s full report, Guardians of Freedom founder Jeremy Liggett exchanged texts with Florida Oath Keeper leader Kelly Meggs on Dec. 22, 2020, three days after Meggs spoke by phone with Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. (Meggs was recently convicted of seditious conspiracy, and Tarrio is currently on trial for the same charge.)
“He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!” Meggs told Liggett, sharing his excitement about President Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020 “be there, will be wild” tweet summoning his supporters to D.C. on Jan. 6.
“I will have a ton of men with me,” Liggett responded.
Meggs told Liggett that “we have made Contact with PB and they always have a big group. Force multiplier…. I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them. F***ing crush them for good.”
Liggett said he had encountered Tarrio at rallies in Florida in his deposition for the January 6th Committee.
On Dec. 30, 2020, Liggett posted on Facebook: “3% will show in record numbers in D.C. The gloves are off antifa.”
Reached by phone by Raw Story, Liggett said, “I have nothing to hide,” but referred questions to his lawyer. The lawyer, Kevin C. Maxwell, said he and his client decided they were “not going to give any interviews until the government finishes its investigation and has determined what they’re going to do,” including potentially charging additional defendants.
Guardians of Freedom’s Dec. 24 flyer, headlined “Calling All Patriots!!” and name-dropping Women for America First, announced that the group was “responding to the call from President Donald J. Trump to assist in the security, protection of the people as we all protest the fraudulent election and re-establish liberty for our nation.”
Then-President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk on the south lawn of the White House on December 23, 2020, in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
The flyer said that “destruction of our Constitutional Republic” was underway, while quoting the so-called “right to revolution” in the Declaration of Independence that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.”
The flyer continued: “That is why YOU are here. For massive change to occur, massive action must be taken.”
The flyer concluded with an appeal for funding and a link to a Cash App account: “For the Guardians of Freedom members to deploy, help secure & defend the people at the January 6th event, it will take tremendous support from all of you to assist with the sharing and contributing to our events, missions, and fundraiser.”
The government alleges that Liggett, identified in the charging documents for six other men as “B Leader,” coordinated the group’s travel from Florida and reserved a block of about 15 rooms at the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown Convention Center for Jan. 6 around Christmas.
While most of the Guardians of Freedom’s members were from Florida, the group’s social media campaign reached far beyond the state line.
Liggett posted on Facebook: “I will be in DC on January 6th! Patriots I urge you to come with me!”
Joseph Pavlik, a retired firefighter from Chicago, responded on Christmas Day: “I will be there.”
The group’s recruitment drive in the runup to Jan. 6 even reached Stockton.
A Dec. 30, 2020, email from Tarra Nicolle Hernandez, an administrator for Guardians of Freedom, noted that Stockton had been approved as a full member of the group. Hernandez would be among the 10 people recommended by Charles Bowman to serve as marshals at the Ellipse on Jan. 6.
“Welcome to the Three Percenters, Guardians of Freedom,” the email read. “It is an honor to have you on our team of patriots.
“Please be advised, per the founder, Jeremy Liggett, you have been moved and assigned as a full active member and not a prospect member,” the email continued. “Please disregard the mandatory meeting attendance mentioned in the attached documents.”
Stockton was not asked about the email during his December 2021 interview with the January 6th Committee, suggesting it had not come to light at that point.
But both Charles Bowman and Amy Kremer both told the committee they didn’t recall Stockton mentioning an invitation to join Guardians of Freedom. Stockton could not be reached for comment for this story.
‘Antifa’s worst nightmare’
Wearing a black tactical vest with a Three Percenter patch and a patch bearing the words “B Squad,” Jeremy Liggett appeared in a video that was posted on Facebook on Jan. 3, 2021.
As court documents note, Liggett stood “in front of a group of individuals wearing military-style gear and face coverings, many of whom appeared to possess assault rifles.”
"We all know in D.C., once the sun goes down, things get a little bit violent and the reason why things get violent is because you have socialist, leftist, Marxist, communist agitators like Black Lives Matter and antifa,” Liggett warned. He described various “defensive tools” including “the strongest pepper spray commercially available to use,” an expandable metal baton, knives with blades less than three inches, a walking cane and a Taser, according to charging documents.
Guardians of Freedom founder Jeremy Liggett posted a video on Jan. 3, 2021 providing instructions on weapons to bring to Washington, D.C. (eyes redacted by DOJ). U.S. Department of Justice
On Jan. 4 and 5, about 40 people checked into 20 rooms on the third floor of the Hampton Inn, according to court documents. Among them: Liggett and Pavlik, the retired Chicago firefighter, along with four other men identified by the government as members of “B Squad.” A hotel employee told investigators that members of the group “were wearing tactical gear such as military style vests, zip ties, pepper spray, and clip-on knives, and had police-type batons, helmets and masks.”
On Jan. 5, Liggett spoke at a raucous pre-rally at Freedom Plaza. The rally was divided into blocks that were apportioned to various factions or organizers, according to Dustin Stockton. The first four hours went to Women for America First and two pastors — Greg Locke and Brian Gibson — who had joined the March for Trump bus tour, with the second half divided between Ali Alexander and another organizer named Cindy Chafian.
Wearing his “March for Trump” jacket, Stockton introduced Liggett as “antifa’s worst nightmare.” Liggett addressed the rally wearing his black tactical vest with the Three Percenter and “B Squad” patches.
“I am a son,” he said. “I am a father. And I am an American patriot. I am a Three Percenter.”
Liggett led a chant: “F*** antifa! F*** antifa! F*** antifa! F*** antifa!”
“Listen guys, this is about your American dream,” he said. “Your American dream is at stake. I’m here with a simple message today. Stand. Stand and fight for America. Fight for your freedom of religion. Fight for the Constitution of the United States of America. Fight for your children. Fight for your grandchildren. Patriots do not comply.
Again, Liggett led the crowd in a chant. This time, it was: “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
When Stockton reclaimed the microphone, he remarked on “how cool it is hearing ‘fight’ echo off these buildings.” Then he asked the crowd to indulge him in “a little housekeeping,” requesting that they text a number for updates on the rally happening the following day at the Ellipse.
“That’s where the president’s going to be speaking,” Stockton said. “That’s who we’re taking our marching orders from, right?”
Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 was only 18 hours away.
Key figures and groups in this series
1st Amendment Praetorian: Volunteer security group associated with retired Lt. General Michael Flynn that provided personal security details for Ali Alexander and other speakers at pro-Trump rallies leading up to Jan. 6, 2021
Guardians of Freedom: Three Percenter group led by Jeremy Liggett based in Florida whose members joined a mob in the Tunnel at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and tried to break through a line of D.C. Metropolitan Police Officers.
Oath Keepers: Far-right militia group that targets military veterans and former law enforcement for recruitment; dozens of members equipped with military gear entered the Capitol in a column formation
Proud Boys: Neo-fascist street fighting group that served as the engine of the insurrection by leading a mob to the Capitol, including one member who broke out a window, leading to the initial breach of the building
Stop the Steal: Coalition led by Republican operative Ali Alexander that organized protests in battleground states after the Nov. 3, 2020 election, followed by large rallies in Washington, D.C., culminating in Jan. 6
United Constitutional Patriots: Militia group that allegedly detained more than 300 migrants in New Mexico while carrying firearms and fake badges; their spokesman interviewed Dustin Stockton for a Facebook livestream during an event to promote a privately-funded section of the border wall in 2019
Women for America First: Nonprofit led by Tea Party organizer Amy Kremer that hosted the Jan. 6 rally featuring Donald Trump, along with the March for Trump bus tour and two large rallies in Washington, D.C. preceding Jan. 6This is the second in a three-part series about ties between Women for America First, which held the permit for the rally where Donald Trump spoke on Jan. 6, 2021, and the Three Percenter group Guardians of Freedom. Read part one here.