'Good way to die': An AR-15 worshiping Moonies sect mobilized for Jan. 6 and is recruiting the far right to its apocalyptic vision

With just over three weeks to go before the 2020 presidential election, former White House senior counselor Steve Bannon addressed a crowd gathered on the grounds of Kahr Arms/Tommy Gun Warehouse in Greeley, Pa. by video. He warned about a supposed Democratic conspiracy to steal the election from Donald Trump.

"What the left intends to do — and you're seeing it in Pennsylvania right now — use the courts, use social media, use the mainstream media to try to make sure Trump is not declared the winner that night," Bannon said. He went on to promise that the Trump forces would "win this thing," adding: "Pennsylvania is the key that picks the lock for a second Trump term."

Frank Scavo, a local Republican politician who had previously served on the Old Forge School Board in Lackawanna County, emceed the event. Following Bannon's remarks, Scavo reinforced the previous speaker's points.

"You heard Steve Bannon," Scavo said. "Now is our time, now is your time. Working the polls — all you're doing is making sure that it's going straight, that it's going according to plan. All you're doing is making sure that there aren't busloads of people which show up and just happen to vote."

Then, Scavo introduced the next speaker — a man dressed in a camouflage-patterned suit and tie and wearing a crown of bullets, with a gold-plated AR-15 rifle slung over his shoulder. It was Pastor Hyung Jin "Sean" Moon, leader of World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, more commonly known as Rod of Iron Ministries. Alongside Kahr Arms, the gun manufacturer owned by older brother Kook-Jin "Justin" Moon, Rod of Iron Ministries hosts the "Freedom Festival," an annual celebration of firearms, military service and patriotism in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania.

"Pastor Moon has the message," Scavo told the assembly. "He has the answers, and the answers are from above. Pastor Moon is the vessel that delivers the message, but it's up to us to deliver on what the word of God is."

Since 2017, Rod of Iron Ministries, an offshoot sect led by the youngest son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon that worships with AR-15s, has increasingly aligned itself with Donald Trump, while aggressively evangelizing to the pro-Second Amendment and anti-government flanks of the far right. Consistent with the teachings of the Unification Church from which it sprang, Rod of Iron Ministries considers Sun Myung Moon "as a returning Jesus," or "True Father." Believers call Sean Moon the "2nd King," although Rod of Iron is bitterly divided against other factions led by Hak Ja Han, the widow of Sun Myung Moon and Sean's mother, and his older brother Hyun Jin "Preston" Moon, which are also vying for recognition as heirs to the legacy of the cult's founder.

Among the groups involved in the insurrection, including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and loose configurations of Three Percenters, the role of Rod of Iron Ministries as a hub of organizing for the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol has been largely overlooked.

Following the 2020 election, Rod of Iron Ministries deployed its American members to a string of large rallies in Washington DC, Harrisburg, Pa. and Valdosta, Ga. in November and December that helped build momentum for the Jan. 6 insurrection, along with church members enlisted from Japan and South Korea who also fanned out across Pennsylvania for almost daily roadside rallies in support of Trump. As leader of Rod of Iron Ministries, Sean Moon promoted the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump, while issuing apocalyptic warnings to his followers to prepare for violent confrontation as President Biden's inauguration approached. They marched in paramilitary formation in DC, with members outfitted in tactical vests, helmets and protective glasses, while networking with other pro-Trump groups such as Vets for Trump and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagles, along with Pennsylvania political figures like Frank Scavo.

On Jan. 6, a video shared on Instagram by Sean Moon shows him and at least a dozen Rod of Iron Ministries members reacting to chemical spray from law enforcement officers on the plaza outside the Capitol, and Moon later led members onto the scaffolding on the west side of the building. One Rod of Iron Ministries associate, Robert Pickell, pushed against a line of Capitol police officers in riot gear outside the Columbus Doors as other rioters pelted the officers with projectiles and bashed out windows with flagpoles. In video reviewed by Raw Story, Pickell can be seen charging into the police line to the left of the entrance, as the doors open and another person yells, "They're in!" Pickell has not been charged, but Frank Scavo, who introduced Sean Moon at the Rod of Iron Freedom Festival in October 2020, faces a charge of violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, among other felonies offenses.

'It's not even their country'

Beginning in mid-October, teams of Japanese and Korean believers chaperoned by Rod of Freedom Ministries member Ted O'Grady crisscrossed Pennsylvania, from the state capital in Harrisburg to State College and back east to Honesdale, holding almost daily roadside rallies in support of Donald Trump.

An update on the Facebook page for the Newfoundland Sanctuary Church — Rod of Iron Ministries' headquarters in rural Wayne County — indicated that the international visitors had initially planned to come for seven days in October to attend the Freedom Festival and a Trump fundraising dinner. But after Nov. 3, Sean Moon asked them to stay another 21 days to travel "all over Pennsylvania rallying with the message of the Trump landslide!" Later, Moon "asked them to extend their visit to 40 days because of the electoral emergency in the USA." The sect reported that more than 100 Japanese and Korean members "responded to the call of Heaven, going out to rally no matter what the weather."

The weekend after the election, the Japanese members — dubbed by O'Grady as the "Elite J-Team Warriors" — joined a pro-Trump rally in Harrisburg, and posed with state Sen. Doug Mastriano, a retired Army colonel and expert on hybrid warfare who has acknowledged being present outside the US Capitol on Jan. 6 and is currently a leading voice in the campaign to launch an "audit" of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.

In a Nov. 12 sermon streamed over the internet, Sean Moon held up the Japanese visitors in positive contrast to his American followers, praising them for their fervor.

"We have to seriously train up our American folks," Moon said. "And just watching them, wow, they put the US to shame. Seriously, it's not even their country and they're out there three times a day, okay, doing the prayers for the country. You can't say, 'Well, they don't have jobs.' Hello. They gave up their jobs to come here."

Growing increasingly agitated, Moon warned that if Biden became president, they would have "to fight against a tyrannical, globalist, Satanist, Luciferian force."

Raising the specter of Biden ordering the confiscation of guns — a perennial bugaboo of the far right — Moon asked, "How many conservatives are actually going to go out in a pile of lead? Or brass — a pile of brass? That means you're going to be in a gunfight with the police. How many conservatives are going to do that? Because in a gunfight with the police, because of the numbers, eventually they'll probably win, and you will die, and your whole family will die."

Addressing younger members of the sect, Moon railed, "Are you going to be the kind of bitch that says, 'Oh, I'm being threatened to die! Oh, crap. But I really like my life. And I really like video games. And if I just go along with this, maybe I'll be able to play for a couple more years and be able to enjoy my life a little bit. And what about my wife and what about my young baby and all that?' You don't think every warrior on the face of the planet [doesn't] think about that? That is not an excuse. There comes a point when there's no turning back if you're allowed to pass a certain precipice."

'Our veteran friends and folks have contacted us'

Sean Moon closed by reminding followers during his Nov. 12 sermon about a "big rally coming up on Saturday in DC" — the Million MAGA March — and instructed them to "be there." He added, "Already, our veteran friends and folks have contacted us. They're going to be down there, too, so we're hooking up with all of them."

On Nov. 14, Rod of Iron members, including Robert Pickell, joined other Trump supporters to protest the election results in Washington DC. Rod of Iron Ministries member Kyle Yoder memorialized an antagonistic encounter with antifascists while referencing the sect's paramilitary formation.

"Got up and personal with Antifa with my peace police peace militia camo on," he wrote on his Facebook page.

Jerry Heying, a veteran private security professional and firearms instructor who serves as national vice president of the Rod of Iron Riders — the sect's "motorcycle ministry" — documented his presence with a Facebook post showing himself standing in front of the Supreme Court with Pickell and Sean Moon on Nov. 14.

A month later, when Trump supporters gathered in DC again on Dec. 12 in advance of the electoral college vote, Heying marched at the front of the line with Sean Moon and Justin Moon as members chanted, "Stop the fraud," "The media lies," and "Biden lost."

The sect markedly enhanced its paramilitary appearance for the Dec. 12 rally, with younger members, including Yoder, wearing tactical vests, and some wearing helmets inscribed with Bible verse citations.

Heying is the president of Executive Protection Institute, a bodyguard training school with offices in New York City and Winchester, Va. Heying told friends on Facebook that over the course of his decades-long career, he has worked extensively with the US Secret Service as a private contractor to help protect US presidents.

Following the 2018 death of former President George HW Bush, Heying posted a photo on Facebook showing himself standing with the former president, writing, "I was fortunate to have worked around Pres Bush in numerous occasions."

A Rod of Iron Ministries friend commented on Heying's post: "Why is that fortunate?"

"As a professional protector I have worked with the USSS almost 100 times with multiple individuals from Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary, Ford, Obama and others," Heying wrote in response. "Regardless of my personal beliefs or opinions, these experiences were unique and at a pretty high level. My personal experiences with this man were positive and notable despite what some may believe or consider. This was the same for others I protected who at the time were respected but later fell from grace."

Another friend from Rod of Iron Ministries came to Bush's defense.

"I think he had a good side and supported Father," the friend wrote, referring to Rev. Sun Myung Moon. "I'm not sure how Deep State manipulates people but I'm sure they have many devious methods that hone in the higher you are."

Heying let the friend's assessment go without further comment.

Rod of Iron Ministries is currently offering a precision shooting course taught by Heying, with all proceeds going to the sect.

Heying could not be reached for comment for this story.

'Leaders in this movement'

When plans materialized for the Jan. 6 rally in DC, Rod of Iron members were quick to respond.

"Big protest in DC on January 6 th," Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 19. "Be there, will be wild!" Kyle Yoder shared a screengrab of the president's tweet on his Facebook page on the same day, wondering: "Is Trump calling 'we the people' to DC?"

On Christmas Eve, Teddy Daniels, the Pennsylvania director for a group called Vets for Trump, shared a popular meme riffing on Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware" painting. "Americans willing to cross a frozen river to kill you," the meme reads. "In your sleep. On Christmas. Totally not kidding. We've done it."

The meme was re-shared from Daniels' page 348 times.

On Jan. 4, Daniels would post a photo of his combat boots, while announcing that he would be speaking at the Jan. 6 rally in DC. The language in the post was both sentimental and strikingly martial. The ode to "an infantryman's boots" described a veteran (Daniels) who "knows they are their [sic]… waiting… just in case he needs to once again serve his country. And become the Ass kicking, life taking, lifesaving, bad ass he once… and still continues to be."

Daniels was a featured speaker at a "Stop the Steal" rally held at Tommy Gun Warehouse, the store in Greeley owned by Justin Moon, along with Sean Moon and Frank Scavo, on Dec. 29. A flier for the event also listed Steve Bannon as one of the keynote speakers, although it's not clear whether he actually appeared, in person or otherwise. But the inclusion of Bannon, who took over Trump's then-floundering presidential campaign in August 2016, is notable. That same month, Rod of Iron Ministries established links with the Trump family, with Eric Trump speaking at the grand opening of Tommy Gun Warehouse. Video from the event shows Trump speaking with Justin Moon, with Sean seated nearby. Later, as documented on Sean Moon's Instagram page, he met Donald Trump Jr. at a "Sportsmen for Trump" rally at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in North Whitewall Township in August 2020.

Teddy Daniels remarks at the Dec. 29 "Stop the Steal" rally at Tommy Gun Warehouse suggested that Jan. 6 would not be an ordinary political rally.

"I see these Republican politicians sittin' back on their hands and not doing a thing," Daniels said. "They're in a position to do it, and they're not doing it. So, you know what? We're gonna make our voices heard now. They will hear us. They don't want to listen the easy way? Well, there's always a hard way of doing things. And sometimes I like taking that hard road. People tend to learn a lot more when you drag 'em down a hard road."

Then, Daniels publicly acknowledged the Moon brothers.

"Sean, Justin: Thank you for putting this on today," he said. "Thank you for bringing the people together to get this done. Thank you for being leaders in this movement."

Daniels was well acquainted with Rod of Iron Ministries, having been a featured speaker at the Freedom festivals for two years running. The close relationship has continued: Only three days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Sean Moon would give the opening prayer at Daniels' congressional campaign kickoff (Frank Scavo served as emcee), and Daniels is slated to return as a speaker at the third annual Rod of Iron Freedom Festival in October.

Meanwhile, Daniels' group Vets for Trump has been enmeshed in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Joshua Macias, co-founder of Vets for Trump, and another man named Antonio LaMotta were arrested on weapons charges outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia where election officials were tabulating votes on Nov. 5. Police found an AR-15 style rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a silver Hummer that carried the two men from Chesapeake, Va. to Philadelphia.

On the eve of the Jan. 6 rally, Sean Moon posted a stylized video on Instagram entitled "Rod of Iron Riders Scout DC" that showed him leading the pack in a camouflage skull mask, replete with an ominous soundtrack. He followed with a post promoting the "March to Save America," that declared, "Trump wants to see you in DC."

The graphic included three panels instructing supporters to come to Freedom Plaza on Jan. 5 at 1 p.m., then to the Ellipse at 9 a.m. on Jan. 6, and finally to the Capitol building at 1 p.m.

Charging the police line as other rioters breached the Capitol

Based on a review of social media, open-source photography and videos and a written account reviewed by Raw Story, Sean Moon, Justin Moon and other Rod of Iron Ministries members, including Jerry Heying and David Kanagy were in line at the Ellipse to hear President Trump at about 7 a.m. on Jan. 6. Kyle Yoder and his father were also at the Ellipse. Heying has reported that he was at the Ellipse from 6 a.m. to noon, but it's not clear whether he went to the Capitol. With a two-way radio clipped to his shoulder, Pastor George Cook, Texas president of Rod of Iron Riders, posted video of Trump's speech on Parler. His video showed Robert Pickell listening to the speech from the Washington Monument.

Following the instructions on the "March to Save America" flier shared on Instagram, Rod of Iron members left the Ellipse before Trump finished speaking. Carrying the American flag, along with the flags of Japan and South Korea, a Three Percenter flag, a Trump 2020 flag, a flag depicting Trump as Rambo, and the Rod of Iron Ministries flag, depicting crossed rifles and a crown atop the handle of a sword, they had reached Constitution Avenue and were marching towards the Capitol by about 1 p.m.

Separate from the larger group, Pickell carried a bullhorn and an American flag to the east side of the Capitol. At 2:23 p.m., he can be seen in a Parler video published by ProPublica jostling with a Capitol police officer. Police fired a flashbang and officers equipped with shields can be seen pushing Pickell and the other rioters back. Another video posted on Parler two minutes later shows Pickell still facing down the police line on the left side of the entrance as an unidentified person says, "They got the door open! They're in."

Rod of Iron Ministries member Robert Pickell engages the police line at the Columbus Doors www.youtube.com

Robert Pickell is identified in a 2018 story in The Chronicle newspaper, on the left. A video posted on Parler, that was re-published by ProPublica, on the right, shows Picknell at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

A longer video that captures a wider angle shows that Pickell remained on the police line for at least 10 minutes, sometimes pushing against the officers as other rioters pelted the police with projectiles and used flagpoles to break glass out of the doors. Police used riot shields and hands to repeatedly push Pickell and others away from the doors. Pickell appears to be buffeted between police and rioters during some parts of the standoff, but at a critical moment when the door opens, he can be seen charging back into the police line without anyone pushing him from behind. It is unclear whether Pickell went inside the Capitol building.

Raw Story was able to identify Pickell by comparing stills from the battle outside the Columbus Doors with a photo of him with church administrator Gregg Noll from a 2018 article in The Chronicle, a community newspaper published by Strauss News, that includes his name in a cutline.

A 2020 letter to the Pike County Courier, also published by Strauss News, lists Pickell as resident of Greentown. In the letter, Pickell says he is a Navy veteran who moved about 30 years ago from New York City to northeast Pennsylvania to raise his children, and that he ran an HVAC and electrical contracting business. In June 2021, Pickell, again listing Greentown as his residence, made a post on a discussion board for two-way radio users.

Pickell could not be reached for comment for this story. A spokesperson for the FBI Philadelphia Field Office declined to comment on whether Pickell or other members of Rod of Iron Ministries are under investigation. A spokesperson for the FBI Washington Field Office also declined to comment on the matter.

Frank Scavo, who chartered buses to bring protesters from Pittston Township to DC, entered the Capitol building through the Columbus Doors at about 2:40 p.m. with a large group of rioters. While inside the building, Scavo recorded video, at one point turning the camera on himself and stating: "This is top-secret shit. We're in the Capitol. Stormed the f***ing Capitol of the f***ing United States at 58 years old. What the f*** is wrong with America?"

Following Scavo's arrest in March, Richard Panzer, the president of World Peace and Unification Sanctuary-USA, launched a fundraiser on GiveSendGo to support his legal defense. The campaign has already exceeded its $12,000 goal, with Rod of Iron Ministries members donating while hailing Scavo as a "patriot" and "godly American peace warrior."

Ernie Preate, one of Scavo's lawyers, declined to make his client available for comment for this story.

While Pickell and Scavo were on the east side of the Capitol, video and photos show Sean Moon leading a group of Rod of Iron Ministries members on the west side of the Capitol. In video documenting a previous mobilization in DC, Kyle Yoder referenced Rod of Iron Ministries breaking up into three or four teams and mentioning the Rod of Iron Riders (a biker group) as a distinct subunit, but the available documentation does not make it clear whether members intentionally split into separate teams on Jan. 6.

In a written account of the siege, Rod of Iron Ministries member David Kanagy described crossing a low stone wall to join the mob swelling the west side of the Capitol and getting hit in the chest by a teargas canister fired by Capitol police. In a video posted on Parler, Sean Moon can be seen leading sect members onto the west plaza. Kanagy said he eventually spotted the Rod of Iron Ministries flag and caught up with his fellow sect members as they were retreating.

Rod of Iron Ministries members retreat from chemical spray at US Capitol www.youtube.com

In a video posted to Instagram, Sean Moon showed himself and other sect members hopping over the low stone wall and stepping over sections of metal barricade strewn about the grass, as they reacted to the chemical spray. One woman in the group, which also included Justin Moon, and Kyle Yoder, had a two-way radio clipped to her coat. Sean wore protective glasses while others were equipped with goggles or facemasks.

Kanagy wrote that he saw other sect members climbing the stairs through the scaffolding to the left of the west plaza and decided to follow them. As he ascended the stairs, Kanagy wrote that a man going in the other direction who identified himself as a construction worker told him it was dangerous because there were too many people on the scaffolding.

"I thought I shouldn't worry, but be there to support the King," Kanagy wrote. "If the scaffolding collapsed from so many people, it would be tragic, but that would be a good way to die as an offering."

A Shutterstock photo shows Sean Moon another other sect members, including Kyle Yoder, standing on the scaffolding. Eventually, Kanagy said, Moon encouraged them to come down, and "they regrouped in the grassy area, with J team and K team and ROI riders coming together."

On the opposite side of the Capitol, a photo shared on Twitter by Finnish journalist Mikko Martinnen at 2:44 p.m. shows Teddy Daniels, the Pennsylvania director of Vets for Trump, conferring with Joshua Macias, the group's co-founder, in the middle of a crowd near the foot of the steps leading to the Columbus Doors. Since then, Daniels and Macias have co-signed an official statement issued on behalf of Vets for Trump endorsing Doug Mastriano for governor of Pennsylvania.

A Pennsylvania judge ordered Macias and Antonio LaMotta jailed at the conclusion of a hearing at which prosecutors argued that the two men violated bail conditions while awaiting trial on weapons charges when they showed up in Philadelphia for the vote tabulation.

"At a minimum, the defendant violated the conditions of his bail once again by traveling across state lines in an attempt to interfere with a lawful democratic process," Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock argued in a motion to revoke bond. "Where he failed in Philadelphia, he temporarily succeeded in the District of Columbia."

In another video filmed on the east side of the Capitol, with the crowd considerably thinned, Daniels can be seen standing near Frank Scavo. Daniels commemorated the day by posting a short video showing Trump supporters thronging the steps on the east side of the Capitol, and writing, "I am here. God bless our patriots."

Daniels could not be reached for this story.

Raw Story was able to identify Pickell and Heying, as well as track the movements of Rod of Iron Ministries and Vets for Trump members at the Capitol on Jan. 6 thanks to the contributions of many anonymous open-source researchers, in particular the #Bluehatz team and the CapitolHunters collective.

'May God guide us through the coming revolution'

Riding the bus back to his hotel on Jan. 6, David Kanagy was impressed by conversation among six of his fellow passengers who "started talking about the rally and foreseeing a violent 2 nd revolution coming."

"May God guide us through this coming revolution to remove evil and preserve our republic," Kanagy concluded in his reflection for Rod of Iron Ministries.

Sean Moon declined an interview request through a spokesperson for this story, but in a fiery sermon shared on his Instagram two days after the Capitol siege he called Jan. 6 "an epic day" when American patriots "made a spiritual stance against evil." At the same time, Moon whitewashed the assault on the Capitol as "a peaceful protest."

Gregg Noll, the administrator for Sanctuary Church has described Jan. 6 as a "turning point" for the sect.

"Right after that event, the King announced we're entering the growth stage," Noll explained in a May 26 PowerPoint presentation.

"The sovereign citizens, what does Peace Police Peace Militia mean that Father talked about?" Noll continued. "It's really about each of us becoming responsible to our neighbor and to our country, to really become patriots in the truest way. And then based on this foundation, then the Cheon Il Guk Constitution can be launched and accepted." ("The Constitution of the United States of Cheon Il Guk," authored by Sean Moon, is described on the sect website as providing "the political framework for the future Kingdom of God on Earth.")

Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Noll said, Sean Moon informed his followers that "part of this growth plan was to go to Texas." The church purchased a 40-acre campground and marina on a lake an hour east of Waco, Texas. The property was listed at just under $1 million. The sect held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the campground, rechristened "Liberty Rock," on April 20. Kyle Yoder appears to be managing the compound, based on videos posted by Rod of Iron Ministries, and Noll lauded them for "doing a good job getting the property up to where it needs to be."

One slide in Noll's PowerPoint provides a provocative hint at what Rod of Iron Ministries' political project in Texas might entail, depicting a map with the header: "The Nine Equal States of a Divided Texas." The map delineates the boundaries of future states with names like "Caddo (East Texas)," "Coastbend," "Hill Country," "Bexar" and "Rio Grande Republic." Noll did not offer any explanation for new political subdivisions.

While the Texas project is only now coming to fruition, the ideas behind it have been percolating in Sean Moon's mind for at least three years. In a sermon incorporated into a June 2018 video promoting his "Peace Police Peace Militia," Moon talked about Rod of Iron Ministries as "the people God has prepared" to reveal to conservative America "the true inheritance of the kingdom" and help them "move from sheep to sheepdog."

"That's every single one of us here — every single one of us here that understands the rod of iron," Moon said. "Amazing that the gun community is now talking about local militias. That is incredible. Incredible. And if you have veterans there, if you have former law enforcement there, hey, already guys put people in your place and location to step up and give guidance."

Moon and his sect have aggressively cultivated relationships with conservative luminaries. Moon shared a stage at a 2018 Florida Second Amendment rally with Mark Robinson, and invited the future North Carolina lieutenant governor to the first Rod of Iron Freedom Festival in 2019. The roster for the upcoming festival reflects the same star quality, including a return appearance by Steve Bannon; former Sheriff Richard Mack, who promotes a legally dubious theory that sheriffs hold the authority to act in defiance against supposedly unconstitutional acts by federal agencies; and a keynote speech by Dana Loesch, the former NRA spokesperson.

Noll explained in his May 26 presentation that the sect plans to install a gun range on the Texas property while also providing "bush-crafting training." He said Rod of Iron Ministries is also scouting properties for expansion in Florida Tennessee and Utah.

Steven Hassan, a former member of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church who has written four books on cults, including one focused on Trump, said Rod of Iron Ministries' expansion should be viewed with alarm. The choice to locate near Waco, Texas, where followers of cult leader David Koresh died in a fiery siege by the FBI and ATF in 1993, is significant, Hassan told Raw Story.

"When I saw that they bought the compound near Waco, Texas, near David Koresh, I was like, 'Oh, so they're training people how to shoot guns and assault rifles." Hassan added that the Moonies, along conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and others are attempting "to program people that we're going to have a civil war in the streets and we need our guns to kill all the commies. I'm very concerned."

'Uniquely disturbing': Cop who stormed Capitol assembled 'arsenal' while awaiting trial

A federal judge has ruled that a Virginia police officer who breached the Capitol on January 6th must remain in detention after the FBI discovered he placed orders for 37 rifles valued at more than $50,000 following his indictment, and agents later found silencers, pipe-bomb materials and a M-4 rifle during a search of his property in rural Franklin County on June 29.

A 26-year law enforcement veteran, Robertson and another officer, Jacob Fracker, took part in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol while they were off duty from the Rocky Mount Police Department. Robertson served in the US Army from 1991 to 1994, when he graduated from ranger and sniper school, according to a motion filed by his lawyer. Later, in 2008, he deployed as an Army reservist to Iraq, where he conducted IED and sniper training for the Iraqi Army, and then in 2011 trained Afghan National Security Forces, sustaining severe wounds from gunshot and mortar shrapnel in Logar Province.

"There is probable cause to believe that Robertson committed a felony — willfully shipping or transporting firearms and ammunition despite being under felony indictment — while on pretrial release," Judge Christopher Cooper wrote in an order released on Wednesday. "Under the applicable statute, this finding gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that Robertson cannot be safely released into the community pending trial under any conditions. Robertson has not rebutted this presumption."

Following Robertson's January 29th indictment, the FBI obtained a search warrant to review his email and uncovered what the government describes as "evidence that Robertson was involved in the purchase, sale, and possession of firearms and ammunition."

A June 30th motion filed by the government cited multiple purchases beginning on February 14th and continuing through April 12th, with suppliers in eight different states shipping rifles and ammunition, including more than 1,000 armor-piercing rounds. FBI agents learned that Robertson had the armaments shipped to Tactical Operations, a Roanoke gun dealership that holds a federal firearms license. Later, between June 29th and July 1st, another three firearms were received by Tactical Operations on Robertson's behalf, bringing the total to 37.

Robertson's lawyer, Mark M. Rollins, did not dispute the purchases during a hearing in DC District Court on Wednesday.

During a June 29th raid on Robertson's house in Franklin County, FBI agents discovered a loaded M4 rifle on Robertson's bedroom dresser, along with four silencers and a partially assembled pipe bomb.

Rollins argued that the armaments purchases didn't violate Robertson's conditions of release because there are adequate safeguards to prevent him from taking possession of the weapons.

"Those firearms are under the possession of the FFL and he could not take possession," Rollins told the court. "The purchaser and the FFL fill out a Department of Justice form. They check off the boxes that are appropriate. One of the questions on there is whether you're under indictment."

Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Ann Aloi argued in response that it doesn't matter whether Robertson technically possessed the firearms or not, adding, "He asked someone else to hold his guns, and he took advantage of the fact that he had access to the FFL to visit his guns."

The government has also cited a June 10th comment by Robertson on a forum at the Gunbroker.com website, where he arranged some of the purchases, to show his contempt for the prosecution.

"They are trying to teach us a lesson," Robertson wrote. "They have. But it's definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest then you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no-fly list, have your name smeared and address released by the FBI so every loon in the US can send you hate mail.

"I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon… cross it," Robertson continued. "Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles."

Aloi also cited comments by Robertson on Facebook two days after the insurrection, in which he wrote, "Well… F*** you. Being nice, polite, writing letters and sending emails hasn't worked…. All that's left is violence and YOU and your 'Friends on the other side of the isle' have pushed Americans into that corner. The picture of Senators cowering on the floor with genuine fear on their faces is the most American thing I have seen in my life. Once… for real… you people ACTUALLY realized who you work for."

On the same day, Robertson wrote in another comment on Facebook: "Peace is done. Now is the time for all the braggart 'Patriots' to buckle armor or shut the f*** up. Facebook warriors time is done. The next revolution started 1/6/21 in case you 'Im ready' and 'standing by' guys missed it."

Robertson is currently locked up in the Central Virginia Regional Jail, about 75 miles northwest of Richmond, where he was placed after Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey granted the government's motion for detention on July 9. Because he is a former police officer, Robertson is being housed apart from the rest of the inmate population.

"He's been detained for over a week," Rollins told Judge Christopher Cooper on Wednesday. "You've gotten his attention. He's been locked up 23 hours a day. Detention for him is a lot more intense because of the isolation."

Aloi told Cooper on Wednesday: "I don't think you could say no harm no foul. He's asking for home detention, but he has these things in his home. He is shopping for and arranging for the transport of an arsenal, and he is advocating for violence both in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection and as recently as June 10."

Reading from Robertson's statements, Aloi concluded, "That does not sound like someone who intended no harm no foul, with someone who ordered 37 firearms and has a disassembled pipe bomb."

At the end of the hearing, Judge Cooper said he was not ready to make a decision on Robertson's detention, saying the Department of Justice gun transfer forms in particular raised issues he would need to look at more closely.

"I will take this under advisement and get something out quickly," he said.

During Wednesday's hearing, Aloi hinted that Robertson's son could potentially face a perjury charge in connection with his testimony that the M4 rifle that was discovered on June 29 belonged to him.

"The M4 rifle that was on the bed — does that rifle belong to you?" Rollins asked Hunter Robertson under direct examination on Wednesday.

"Yes, sir," Robertson responded.

In a brief filed on July 12th, the government described the June 29th raid on the Robertson home at which Hunter Robertson was present. According to the government, agents asked Robertson "if he had any personal firearms stored in the house," and Robertson responded by disclosing that he had a gun in his truck, making no mention of the M4 rifle.

"After finding the M4 rifle in the defendant's bedroom, law enforcement also asked the defendant's son if the gun was his, and he declined to provide any information about it," the government said in its brief.

Aloi told Judge Cooper that she had not received notice that Hunter Robertson would be testifying on Wednesday.

"The testimony he has given is inconsistent with the statement he gave to law enforcement on June 29," she said. "I don't feel comfortable inquiring of this witness without compromising his Fifth Amendment rights."

Cooper granted Aloi's request for a short recess so she could consult with her supervisor. When court resumed, Aloi said the government deemed Hunter Robertson's testimony to be "peripheral to the resolution of the motion," but Cooper agreed to allow the government to revisit the matter should he decline the motion for detention. Aloi also suggested during the hearing that Hunter Robertson should retain his own counsel.

The 21-year-old Hunter Robertson, who recently left the US Army, testified that he asked his father if he could come to the house on June 29th for firearms practice. He said his father told him he had planned to be gone all day.

"We have little ranges set up where we target practice and stuff like that," Robertson testified. He told the court that he set the rifle on his father's bed when he went inside the house "because right next to the bed there's a gun safe that has ammo."

Hunter Robertson testified that he heard dogs barking and discovered "15-20 FBI agents or task force officers pointing guns at me and asking me to step out of the house." He said they placed him in handcuffs and held him about 30 feet away from the house while they conducted the search.

This is not the first firearms violation Robertson has committed since he was arrested.

When Robertson was released from custody on January 13th, the government noted, a magistrate judge in Roanoke ordered him to relocate any firearms from his house within two days. But on January 19th, while executing a search warrant at Robertson's home, law enforcement reportedly seized eight firearms.

"The particular facts of this case — the nature and circumstances of the offense charged — are uniquely disturbing," Aloi and co-counsel Risa Berkower wrote in their motion for detention. "The defendant, holding a position of public trust as a police officer, traveled to the District of Columbia and participated in one of the most riotous acts of insurrection the nation has ever seen. Then, he repeatedly and flagrantly disregarded the court's orders to not possess firearms despite being admonished for violating this condition of his release shortly after his initial arrest.

"The defendant's possession of an explosive device and firearms, coupled with his extreme rhetoric advocating for violence indicating no remorse," they concluded, "illustrate that the pending charges are unlikely to serve as a deterrent to future violence."

REVEALED: 'Unindicted co-conspirator' in pivotal Proud Boys case is former VP of the Philly chapter -- and may be an FBI informant

An unindicted co-conspirator involved in the Proud Boys' planning for the Jan. 6 gathering that led to the siege of the US Capitol is Aaron Whallon-Wolkind, the former vice president of the nationalistic pro-Trump street gang's Philadelphia chapter.

Whallon-Wolkind's identity as the unindicted co-conspirator was first reported by Alan Feuer, a reporter for the New York Times, on Twitter on Thursday. A knowledgeable source speaking on condition of anonymity provided the same information to Raw Story.

Federal prosecutors have described how an encrypted messaging channel named "Boots on the Ground" was created for Proud Boys communications in Washington DC on Jan. 6 that grew to include more than 60 users, including an individual identified by the government as "Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1."

The unindicted co-conspirator seems to speak with authority in a message to "Boots on the Ground" and to a separate "New MOSD" channel on the evening of Jan. 5, which came a day after Enrique Tarrio, the organization's national chairman, was arrested on charges of property destruction and banned from DC.

"Stand by for the shared baofeng channel and shared zello channel, no Colors, be decentralized and use good judgement until further orders," the unindicted co-conspirator wrote at 9:09 p.m. on Jan. 5, according to the government. "Rufio is in charge, cops are the primary threat, don't get caught by them or BLM, don't get drunk until off the street." "Rufio" is the nickname for Ethan Nordean, a Washington State member who faces conspiracy charges as part of a quartet of Proud Boy leaders that also includes Zachary Rehl, who is the president of the Philadelphia chapter, along with Joseph Biggs and Charles Donohoe.

Nicholas Smith, Nordean's lawyer, told a federal judge during a hearing on Thursday that he wants the government to disclose the name of the unindicted co-conspirator.

"The reason it's important is that if it's who we think it is, there's public information showing this person was at one point a government informant," Smith said. "The government is relying on his statement to keep the defendants detained."

Reached by Raw Story on Friday, Smith declined to comment.

A Reuters report previously identified Whallon-Wolkind as a Telegram user with the screenname "Aaron PB," who wrote to another user named "Zack Pb" in January 2019: "I know, another chat, but this one is for info we want to send our FBI contact. Specifically, he wants things we can tie to criminal activity."

FBI Director Christopher Wray lamented in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in March that the agency did not have better intelligence about the Proud Boys in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 siege, saying, "We are focused very, very hard on how we can get better sources, better information, better analysis." But there's an extensive history of Proud Boys maintaining contact with the FBI and feeding agents information about antifascists adversaries prior to Jan. 6 that includes Biggs.

Antifascist researchers had previously disclosed that Whallon-Wolkind was the vice president of the Philadelphia chapter. Whallon-Wolkind and Rehl are among a group of East Coast far-right activists who are currently plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that a doxing campaign to get them fired from their jobs amounts to extortion. Patrick Trainor, who represents Whallon-Wolkind in the suit, declined to pass along a request for comment from Raw Story to his client. And Trainor declined himself to comment on the information that Whallon-Wolkind is the unindicted co-conspirator in the Proud Boys leadership conspiracy case.

Luke Matthew Jones, one of the government prosecutors, told Judge Timothy J. Kelly on Thursday that the government has turned over an FBI report with the unindicted co-conspirator's screenname to defense counsel, but he added, "It's our position that we're not obligated to produce that person's name at this time."

Jones also told the court that he "did confirm that person was not a CHS," or confidential human source, commonly known as an informant.

A log of Proud Boy communications previously released by the government shows that Whallon-Wolkind told other Proud Boys worried about their security being compromised following Tarrio's arrest that it would be a waste of time to delete chats.

"We went through this when [REDACTED] flipped over to antifa," Whallon-Wolkind said on Jan. 4. "Regardless Google and apple key log everything that you type into your phone anyways."

Raw Story identified Whallon-Wolkind as the author of the chats by cross-referencing the length of the redacted screenname with that of a separate comment that has already been publicly attributed to "Unindicted Co-Conspirator 1."

In another chat, around the same time on Jan. 4, Whallon-Wolkind appears to reference an unidentified person who is trying to get to DC for the Jan. 6 event.

"If they can get a flight to Philadelphia instead we can probably get them there," Whallon-Wolkind wrote.

There's no evidence that Whallon-Wolkind himself was in DC on Jan. 6.

But the chats released by the government show that Whallon-Wolkind wrote, "Storming the capital building right now!!" And two minutes later: "Get there."

Regardless of whether anything said by the unindicted co-conspirator provided the basis for keeping the four Proud Boys leaders locked up pending trial, the government has publicly submitted ample evidence to support its claim that the danger to the community posed by Nordean's prospective release justifies detention.

"As explained in detail on the record," Judge Kelly wrote in a detention order issued against Nordean in April, "given the allegations of political violence against him in the events of January 6, his role as a leader and organizer in a network that frequently creates events with large numbers of people, his planning experience and skills, his history of concealing his communications and activities from law enforcement, the circumstances surrounding his lost passport and stolen firearm, and his lack of regret or remorse for the events of January 6, the court finds that he poses an identified and articulable threat to public safety that is both concrete and prospective and that cannot be mitigated by any conditions of release short of detention."

Florida cop indicted alongside Proud Boys -- after he was spotted celebrating with them at Capitol riots

A Florida man who was recently forced out of his position as a police officer and his son rallied alongside the Proud Boys during the Jan. 6 siege on the US Capitol.

Kevin A. Tuck, who resigned from the the Windermere Police Department, and his son Nathaniel Tuck, formerly employed with the Apopka Police Department, have been indicted alongside Proud Boys Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman, who were previously arrested in March. The superseding indictment also includes Edward George Jr., who was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday.

Jackman, one of the Proud Boy defendants also has police ties: His wife, Sarah Jackman, is a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Following an administrative review, she was cleared of wrongdoing, with the agency reportedly finding that she had no involvement or prior knowledge of her husband's involvement in the Capitol breach.

The indictment also includes Edward George Jr., a Proud Boy who was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday. George made his first appearance before a magistrate judge in Raleigh on Friday morning.

Charging documents so far do not outline any specific connection between the Tucks and the three Proud Boys. The indictment charges all five men with obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; entering and remaining in the gallery of Congress; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.

Edward George and Nathaniel Tuck are also charged with civil disorder, and George alone is charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers.

Paul Rae and Arthur Jackman followed Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs, also a Florida resident, into the Capitol through a door from the West Terrace shortly after Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola smashed out a window adjacent to the door, according to government filings.

Video published by the New Yorker reportedly shows Jackman and Biggs ascending a staircase inside the Capitol, with Jackman placing his hand on Biggs' shoulder. The footage also shows Jackman taking a selfie in the Senate chamber.

Later, according to the government, Rae reentered the Capitol a second time with Biggs through the Columbus Doors on the east side of the building.

Publicly available video shows Nathaniel Tuck, who was nicknamed #BulgePB, walking across the Capitol grounds, with his father, nicknamed #HorizontalBlackPB, walking behind him with his hand on his son's shoulder. Behind Kevin Tuck, also with hand on shoulder is Arthur Jackman, dressed in a red and black plaid shirt. The video appears to show police in riot gear escorting the insurrectionists away from the Capitol.

Kevin Tuck and Nathaniel Tuck celebrate with the Proud Boys on Jan. 6. Left to right: Kevin Tuck, Joe Biggs, Paul Rae, Ethan Nordean, Arthur Jackman and Nathaniel Tuck. Kneeling, center: Edward George Jr.Parler screengrab

A different publicly available video shows Kevin Tuck and Nathaniel Tuck celebrating with the Proud Boys outside the Capitol after the siege. Kevin Tuck can be seen at far left in the second row, while Nathaniel Tuck flanks the far right. Eddie George can be seen kneeling in the front. Arthur Jackman is standing beside Nathaniel Tuck. And Paul Rae can be seen holding an American flag while standing between Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean.

Publicly archived social media posts from July 2020 show George posing in various photos alongside Biggs, Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio, Trump confidant Roger Stone.

George marched with the Proud Boys in Washington, DC on July 4, 2020, as they counter-protested Black Lives Matter. George described getting involved in a scuffle during the march in a podcast with fellow Proud Boy Robert Piccirello. George said he met Charles Donohoe, who is now charged with conspiracy alongside Biggs, at the July 4 rally in DC.

George told Raw Story during an August 2020 interview that he was from Fayetteville, NC, but that he was living in Florida at the time. The Proud Boys mobilized about 40 members from North Carolina and Pennsylvania to join a QAnon-inspired march in Fayetteville in late August 2020.

George said he did not attend the march, but in a post on Facebook around the same time he expressed a preoccupation with the #Frazzledrip, a bizarre conspiracy linked to both #Pizzagate and QAnon that promotes the idea that Hillary Clinton ripped the faces off small children and wore them as masks before drinking their blood in a Satanic ritual.

By the summer of 2020, the #Frazzledrip conspiracy had evolved to claim that television host Ellen DeGeneres was celebrating Clinton's supposed crimes against children.

"Ellen is evil as they come #fazzledrip [sic] #SaveTheChildren #BLM," George posted on his Facebook page in August 2020. "Is the world ready for all this to come out? A lot of us have been exposing these people for 5 yrs or more."

Anatomy of an insurrection: How military veterans and other rioters carried out the Jan. 6 assault on democracy

More than six months after the storming of the US Capitol, more than 550 people have been arrested, with an estimated 800 people surging into the building during the hours-long assault. Members of the Oath Keepers, a loosely organized right-wing paramilitary, and Proud Boys street fighters galvanized by then-President Trump's call to "stand back and stand by" have been indicted on conspiracy to disrupt Congress, which delayed the certification of Joe Biden as president by almost six hours.

"Every single person charged, at the very least, contributed to the inability of Congress to carry out the certification of our presidential election," prosecutors wrote in memorandum filed with the court on Tuesday.

The slow-moving tedium of prosecutorial legal machinery and the GOP campaign to deflect responsibility can make it easy to lose sight of the big picture of what transpired on Jan. 6. But based on an aggregate review of individuals cases, along with other sources, a Raw Story analysis of the critical events in the Jan. 6 siege reveals a striking degree of coordination, sustained and intentional violence, planning and preparation, and determined effort to disable the United States' critical governance apparatus by participants, including many with recent military experience. Many of the rioters who played critical roles in breaching the Capitol came away from the experience vowing to wage war against the United States. Few among those who are being prosecuted have expressed any remorse for their actions.

Amid the hundreds of prosecutions of Trump supporters motivated by the big lie, the GOP has punished lawmakers who fail to bear allegiance to the former president and run afoul of the party line that the election was stolen, while thwarting the House investigation into the events of Jan. 6. GOP intransigence makes it likely that the Democratic-led investigation will become reduced to another partisan snipe-fest, undermining its potential to hold people accountable and prevent future attempts to overturn democracy.

A handful of defendants, including Oath Keepers members, have pleaded guilty, as fresh arrests fatten the docket weekly. Those recently charged are not minor players: In addition to people who trashed media equipment and assaulted reporters, they include the first boogaloo-identified rioter, with hints that there are more to come, and a man who organized a resistance cell under the cover of a Bible study. Critically, the FBI has yet to make an arrest for bombs that were planted outside the Democratic and Republican headquarters on the eve of the insurrection. Even under the most optimistic scenario, the prosecutions are likely to drag on for years: Among the few cases set for trial, white nationalist Christian Secor isn't scheduled to begin deliberations until January 2022.

Beyond the chaotic events that took place when hundreds of Trump supporters unleashed mayhem on the Capitol, it remains unknown to what degree, if any, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated their actions. And beyond Trump's feverish promotion of the Jan. 6 "Save America" rally and instruction to his followers to "walk down to the Capitol," it also remains to be seen whether the siege may have been directed by the president or his surrogates through intermediaries such as Trump confidant Roger Stone or "Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander.

Notably, the mob began its advance on the Capitol well before Trump had finished speaking at the Ellipse, suggesting that key players had decided in advance to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote, while Trump's exhortations mobilized thousands more to reinforce the riot that was already unfolding at the seat of American government.

'Back the yellow'

On Jan. 5 at 8:28 p.m., some 60 Proud Boys on an encrypted channel named "Boots on the Ground" received instructions from an as-yet-unnamed individual, according to government court documents. "Everyone needs to meet at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning!" the message read. "Do not be late! Do not wear colors! Details will be laid out at the pre-meeting. Come out as a patriot!"

Marching towards the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6, Proud Boys — an anti-democratic group that cloaks its white supremacy under a soft cover of "Western chauvinism" — chanted, "Where's antifa?" Many carried Baofeng walkie-talkies and wore earpieces. The Proud Boys had previously clashed with antifascists adversaries in the streets of Washington DC during pro-Trump rallies on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, but on Jan. 6 they didn't find any leftists to fight.

Proud Boys' de-facto leader on Jan 6 is raising money 'to make ends meet': report Ethan Nordean

"Back the yellow," Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean aka Rufio said through a megaphone. Then referring to the arrest of Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio two days earlier and the stabbing of four members on Dec. 12, Nordean seemed to address the police: "You took our boy in, and you let the stabber go. You guys got to prove your shit to us now. We'll do your goddamn job for ya."

Video livestreamed by California Proud Boy Eddie Block shows that the group had made it to the west side of the Capitol by around 11:20 a.m. Trump had tweeted the day before that he would be speaking at the Ellipse at 11 a.m. Had he started on time, the Proud Boys would have been in place in front of the Capitol while he was speaking. But Trump did not start speaking until noon, leaving the Proud Boys time to kill.

Proud Boy Dan 'Milkshake' Scott arrested after assaulting police at Capitol Dan Scott followed by Wall Street Journal during Jan. 6 attack (Photo: Screen capture)

At around 11:47 a.m., the Proud Boys stopped on the east side of the Capitol and milled around. While lining up for a group photo, Proud Boy Dan Scott aka Milkshake yelled, "Let's take the f***ing Capitol." An unidentified individual admonished him: "Let's not f***ing yell that, all right?"

About five minutes after the photo op, Block's livestream shows that the group started moving north towards Constitution Avenue. The Proud Boys took a break next to a row of food trucks outside of the Department of Labor for roughly 35 minutes.

While the Proud Boys were eating and resting, Trump was addressing his supporters a mile and a half away at the Ellipse.

"We're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women," he said. "We're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong."

Christopher Quaglin, an unemployed electrician from New Jersey, livestreamed himself walking towards the Capitol.

"Trump is speaking and everyone is walking there," Quaglin said. "And I am walking there." He turned his camera to show the Capitol.

"And I am ready," Quaglin said, holding up a gas mask for viewers to see. "We will see how it goes. Proud of your boy."

At about 12:43 p.m., Ethan Nordean announced to the Proud Boys gathered beside the food trucks that they would be heading to the "roundabout," likely referring to Peace Circle, which aligns with the northwest approach to the Capitol.

Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe (right) carried a riot shield that fellow Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola (left) stole from police and later used to shatter a Capitol window, allowing rioters to stream inside.(YouTube screengrabs courtesy US government)

Charles Donohoe, later described by a magistrate judge as a "trusted senior lieutenant" who was responsible for ensuring the group's secure communications," walked some distance ahead. A Marine Corps veteran, Donohoe served as president of the North Carolina Piedmont chapter of the Proud Boys. Nordean led the march, along with Joe Biggs, an Army veteran described by his lawyer in a legal filing as "a mainstay Proud Boy planner and organizer since 2018," and Zach Rehl, president of the Philadelphia chapter. The group paused for a moment on First Street, and Billy Chrestman, from the Kansas City chapter, conferred briefly with Nordean.

Proud Boy pal brags about role in Capitol attack - Raw Story ... (DOJ footage)

Around 12:45 p.m., as Trump was still speaking, the Proud Boys converged with a large crowd at Peace Circle, according to court documents. Along with Nordean, Biggs, Donohoe, Rehl, Block and Chrestman, the group included Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola, Matthew Greene and William Pepe. Pezzola, a Marine Corps veteran from Rochester, and Greene, an Army National Guard veteran with combat experience in Afghanistan, had traveled to DC together from Syracuse. Pepe, who was employed by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had worked until midnight on Jan. 5, and spontaneously decided to drive through the night, according to a filing by his lawyer. Pepe had met Pezzola for the first time at a protest on Dec. 5, according to a filing on Pepe's behalf.

'Extensive history of violent and assaultive behavior'

While the Proud Boys and other Trump supporters massed at Peace Circle, Ryan Samsel of Bucks County, Pa. walked over to chat with Biggs, video from a recent New York Times visual investigation shows. It's not clear what they discussed. Federal investigators would later discover what government lawyers describe as "an extensive history of violent and assaultive behavior and of intimidation of witnesses" on Samsel's part. In opposing pre-trial release for Samsel, a government lawyer would write that Samsel's history showed a pattern of "choking and beating women to the point of loss of consciousness, of many hospital visits for many victims, of chipped and missing teeth, and of Samsel even breaking into a victim's home multiple times to assault her."

Pennsylvania Capitol rioter who attacked cop has a history of violence against women accusations: report Ryan Samsel (Photos: DOJ Indictment documents)

Biggs' lawyer, J. Daniel Hull, told Raw Story his client didn't know Samsel. "Joe doesn't know him," he said. "Never heard that name."

About a minute after speaking with Biggs, Samsel walked toward the barricades. As the first person to confront US Capitol police officers blocking the path, Samsel was in effect the spearpoint of the initial attack on the Capitol. According to a statement of facts supporting Samsel's charges, he and others pushed and pulled on the barricades, a series of metal bike racks reinforced with plastic mesh netting. In the process of throwing the barricades to the ground, they reportedly knocked over a police officer, causing her to hit her head on the stairs behind her, causing her to lose consciousness.

"We don't have to hurt you, why are you standing in our way?" Samsel reportedly said, while picking her up off the ground. The officer, referenced in court documents as "O-1," was directed to go back to the West Terrace at the Capitol to regroup. Hours later, according to the government, she would black out and collapse while arresting another rioter and had to be transported to a local hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion.

After Samsel dismantled the first set of barriers, Proud Boys and other rioters streamed down the walkway. At the second set of barriers, Pepe and another rioter grabbed one of the bike racks and dragged it aside to allow the crowd to advance to a police line guarding the plaza on the west side of the Capitol, according to a government filing. (In a legal filing on Pepe's behalf, his lawyer described the scene differently: "People ahead of him threw barricades in his direction forcing him to push them out of the way to avoid being hit by them.")

Pezzola was one the first to reach the next police line, which was quickly overwhelmed by the crowd, according to the government. As rioters were pouring onto the plaza on the western side of the Capitol, Congress began the tally of electoral votes and Vice President Mike Pence released a letter declaring he did not have unilateral authority to overturn the results. Trump concluded his speech at the Ellipse at 1:11 p.m., reinforcing his call to action.

"So, we're going to, we're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue," Trump said. "We're going to give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don't need any of our help, we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country."

As scuffles broke at the Lower West Terrace in front of the Capitol, Pezzola wrested a riot shield away from a US Capitol police officer. During the melee, the government alleges that Donohoe helped Pezzola carry the shield, and that Donohoe reported in a group message to fellow Proud Boys on Telegram: "Got a riot shield."

'Lords of war'

By the time of the Capitol insurrection, Pezzola had become a celebrated figure in the Proud Boys, earning the praise of Chairman Enrique Tarrio for a news photo that showed him striking a menacing pose at the front of a line of Proud Boys in DC on Dec. 12. Tarrio shared the photo on Parler on Dec. 31, writing, "Lords of War. #J6 #J12."

Christopher Worrell (right).Screengrab via FBI complaint.

Other Proud Boys were also in the thick of the action. Billy Chrestman can be seen in video published by the New York Times rallying the mob with his back to the police line, shouting, "Whose House is it?... Do you want your House back?... Take it!" Around the same time, the government alleges that Christopher Worrell, a Proud Boy from Naples, Fla., sprayed pepper gel at police. The New York Times footage also shows rioters throwing bike racks.

Around 1:35 p.m., some in the crowd turned their focus from the plaza to a set of steps encased by scaffolding that had been set up for the inauguration. Worrell and Dan Scott aka Milkshake were positioned in the front line of that fight with officers at the lightly guarded entrance to the staircase. Footage shows the heavyset Scott heave his body against the police line and then briefly fall back, and others take advantage of an officer lunging at Scott to break through the line. The decision to take the staircase is described by the Times as a "pivotal move," noting that it provided "direct access to an upper level — and dozens of doors and windows."

Among the first to ascend the stairs were Pezzola and Greene, the Proud Boys from central New York, along with Robert Gieswein, a Colorado Three Percenter dressed in full tactical gear and carrying a baseball bat who had marched with the Proud Boys.

While one group moved up the staircase, more rioters poured onto the Lower West Terrace. Less than 10 minutes after the staircase entrance was overrun, Jonathan Pollock, Olivia Pollock, Joseph Hutchinson, Joshua Doolin and Michael Perkins — all from Florida — moved into the plaza. Jonathan Pollock and an unknown person charged the police line with flagpoles, according to the government. Hutchison and another person grabbed a fence and pulled it away, allowing rioters to surge into the police line. Pollock reportedly jumped over other rioters to attack the police, grabbing an officer and pulling them down a short set of steps. After going down in a pile, Pollock is accused of punching two police officers and choking a third.

One rioter accused of sustained and continuous assaults on police is Christopher Quaglin, who reportedly accosted Metropolitan police officers on the Lower West Terrace at 1:36 p.m., yelling, "You don't want this fight. You do not want this f***ing fight. You are on the wrong side. You're going to bring a f***ing pistol, I'm going to bring f***ing cannon."

More than 30 minutes later, still battling police on the Lower West Terrace Plaza, Quaglin is accused of shoving an officer. A government motion in Quaglin's case indicates that Quaglin was seen interacting with Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean, and prosecutors also say Nordean grabbed Quaglin by the shoulder to stop him after he pushed the officer.

In a motion filed on behalf of Nordean, his lawyer wrote, "Nordean notes that he does not know — or have any relationship with — Quaglin."

Quaglin at one time claimed to be a member of the Proud Boys, according to evidence presented by the government. In a Nov. 3 social media post, Quaglin reportedly posted a photo of the Proud Boys, writing, "Proud to be one." But in social media chats from Nov. 6 that were retrieved by investigators, Quaglin indicated he was organizing a group of his own. "I have been beginning a group for 2 years," he wrote. "Proud boys don't even know about it."

Court documents also indicate Quaglin told an acquaintance that he was considering joining the Proud Boys and had met with members of the organization in New York.

Regardless of whether he was a member of the Proud Boys or not, he was familiar enough with the group to post on social media on Dec. 26 about his plans for Jan. 6: "Bigger the group the better. And we aren't repping any proud boy colors Fyi. Keeping it as invisible as we can."

Enrique Tarrio Enrique Tarrio (CNN screensho)

That was three days before Chairman Enrique Tarrio posted on Parler: "The Proud Boys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist." He continued: "We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams."

'Patriots storming the Capitol building'

Dominic Pezzola.Photo from DOJ memorandum in support of pretrial detention.

At 2:13 p.m., while members of the House and Senate deliberated in their respective chambers over an objection filed by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola used the stolen riot shield to smash out a window accessed from the West Terrace.

Kevin Seefried. Kevin Seefriend (DOJ complaint screengrab)

Michael Sparks of Kentucky was the first rioter to enter the Capitol through breached window, according to the Times investigation. The first group through window included Pezzola; Robert Gieswein, the Three Percenter wielding a baseball bat; QAnon follower Doug Jensen; Kevin Seefried, carrying a Confederate flag; and his son, Hunter Seefried.

FBI flooded with over 230,000 tips as they hunt hundreds more ... www.rawstory.com

Almost immediately, an unidentified man wearing a helmet kicked open the adjacent doors, allowing more rioters to enter the Capitol. Joe Biggs, the Proud Boys planner and organizer, walked through the doors about two minutes later. In the first five minutes, Zachary Alam, a laid-off hotel concierge from Washington DC, also entered the building through the compromised doors.

The Oath Keepers, a competing far-right group, mobilized slowly, relative to the Proud Boys.

Around the same time that Pezzola breached the Capitol on the west side, the Oath Keepers' designated "ground leader" for Jan. 6 — a man known as "Whip" — wrote in the group's Leadership Signal chat: "The [sic] have taken ground at the capital[.] We need to regoup any members who are not on mission."

Roughly 20 minutes later, according to the government, Oath Keepers Roberto Minuta, Joshua James and Jonathan Walden would race towards the Capitol in golf carts, swerving around police vehicles, after Minuta and James provided a personal security detail to Trump confidant Roger Stone.

"Patriots are storming the Capitol building; there's violence against patriots by the DC police, so we're en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now," Minuta reportedly yelled. "It's going down, guys; it's literally going down right now. Patriots storming the Capitol building…. F***ing war in the streets right now…. Word is they got in the building…. Let's go."

'Mind-blowing' range of charges coming for hundreds in Capitol coup — including 'sedition and conspiracy' A pro-Trump mob enters the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.. - Win McNamee/AFP North America/TNS

There is some evidence of communication between the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys related to Jan. 6. Kelly Meggs, who would be named Florida "state lead" for the Oath Keepers, mentioned an alliance to an acquaintance in a Dec. 19 Facebook message sent the day after the second pro-Trump rally in DC.

"Well, we are ready for the rioters," Meggs wrote. "This week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together to shut this shit down."

Beyond his reference to "rioters," the timing of Meggs' statement — one day after right-wing Trump supporters clashed with leftist adversaries — strongly suggests that the target of Meggs' proposed alliance was antifascist counter-protesters, not the US government or law enforcement.

"Plus, we have made contact with PB and they always have a big group," Meggs wrote in a Facebook message a couple days later. "Force multiplier."

Then, he added: "I figure we could splinter off the main group of PB and come up behind them. F***ing crush them for good."

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio met briefly in a DC hotel parking garage on the eve of the Capitol insurrection, but there's no evidence they discussed plans for the events of the following day. Footage from a Channel 4 documentary shows the two men introducing themselves to one another. "I don't consider him an enemy; I didn't consider him an enemy before — we just had our differences," Tarrio later told the interviewer. "We don't normally work with other groups. That's just not…."

Sen. Mitt Romney and Officer Eugene Goodman. (Screengrab from surveillance video)

While the Oath Keepers were scrambling to get in place on the east side of the Capitol, rioters were streaming into the building from the west side thanks to the entry breached by Pezzola. According to the New York Times, it took only two minutes for rioters to make it from the breach to the Senate doors. As the Times investigation details, Officer Eugene Goodman rushed downstairs as the Senate was being evacuated and intercepted the rioters.

"Where are they counting the votes?" a rioter can be heard shouting at Goodman. The Times footage shows lawmakers fleeing behind the rioters, with only one officer standing guard.

The link between Trumpland, QAnon, evangelical culture and child-sex predators Jacob Chansley, the so-called "QAnon Shaman.© Win McNamee, AFP

Goodman ran up the stairs, pursued by QAnon follower Doug Jensen, luring them into a hallway where backup officers were waiting. In addition to Jensen, the mob at that point included Robert Gieswein; Kevin Siefried; brothers Jerod and Joshua Hughes from Montana; and Jacob Chansley, the so-called "QAnon Shaman."

"He believed he was preventing the certification of President Biden," Judge Timothy J. Kelly said during Jensen's detention hearing on Tuesday. "He thought he was taking part in actions that would result in arrest of members of Congress and Vice President Pence."

Before ordering Jensen's release, Kelly observed that Jensen "recognizes he bought into a pack of lies." While noting that Jensen's expressions of remorse might have an element of convenience considering that he's facing serious criminal charges, Kelly said "they do distinguish Mr. Jensen from many other defendants."

A Marine leads the charge through the Columbus Doors

About 10 minutes after Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola breached the Capitol from the West Terrace, a mob was massed outside the Columbus Doors, which provide access to the Rotunda from the east side. Three rioters who had entered the Capitol from elsewhere were trying to push the doors open while US Capitol Police officers battled the mob outside, according to a government filing.

Christopher Warnagiris, an active-duty Marine Corps officer stationed at Quantico, was the first to push through the Columbus Doors, according to prosecutors, at 2:25 p.m. At that moment, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes summoned his members to the southeast side of the Capitol.

Only a minute earlier, Trump had sent a tweet condemning Vice President Mike Pence, whom his supporters now regarded as a traitor.

Warnagiris entering Columbus Doors, surveillance footage

Once inside the Capitol building, Warnagiris positioned his body near the entrance to keep the door open and reached for other rioters to pull them inside. Charging documents also indicate that Warnagiris struggled with an officer attempting to regain control of the entrance.

As the trickle through the Columbus Doors became a raging stream of euphoric rioters, about 10 Oath Keepers dressed in tactical gear snaked up the outside steps in the "stack" formation with hands on each other's shoulders. Kenneth Harrelson and Jason Dolan, two military veterans from Florida, were already at the top of the steps by then. At about 2:39 p.m., according to the government, the Oath Keepers entered the Capitol building.

Alleged Oath Keepers storming the U.S. Capitol during insurrection.( Department of Justice screengrab)

Once in the Rotunda, Oath Keepers Jessica Watkins, Donovan Crowl, Sandra Parker, Graydon Young, Laura Steele and William Isaacs headed down a hallway towards the Senate, as rioters chanted "F*** McConnell," but police pushed them back into the Rotunda by deploying chemical irritant, according to the government. With the access to the Senate blocked, Oath Keepers Kelly Meggs, Connie Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jason Dolan and Joseph Hackett started walking southbound towards the House of Representatives.

"He apparently was searching for at least one member of Congress in particular — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi," Judge Amit Mehta reflected in an order to keep Kelly Meggs in pre-trial detention. Mehta cited an exchange on Signal in which an unidentified acquaintance told Meggs on the evening of Jan. 6 that he "was hoping to see Nancy's head rolling down the front steps."

"We looked forward her," Meggs reportedly responded. (Mehta surmised that "forward" was likely a typo and that Meggs actually intended to say, "We looked for her.")

'Break it down!'

Zachary Alam (courtesey DOJ filing)

Zachary Alam, who had entered the Capitol through the window breached by Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola roamed the building for roughly 40 minutes, eventually joining a mob that formed outside the doors to the Speaker's Lobby, adjacent to the House chamber. Thomas Baranyi of New Jersey, Phillip Bromley of Alabama, and Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and QAnon supporter from San Diego, Calif. also joined the mob. The scene was captured by John Sullivan, a veteran of the previous summer's police accountability protests with a dubious reputation among Black Lives Matter activists. In addition to documenting the events, Sullivan repeatedly encouraged and celebrated the mayhem, and can be heard in his video addressing one of the officers guarding the doors to the Speaker's Lobby by saying, "We want you to go home. I'm recording and there's so many people and they're going to push their way up here. Bro, I've seen people out there get hurt. I don't want to see you get hurt."

As described in an affidavit supporting charges, Alam repeatedly punched the glass panels of the doors, causing the glass to shatter, and then pushed his body against Capitol police officers guarding the door. The Capitol police officers moved aside, as officers in riot gear appeared behind the crowd of rioters. The changeover resulted in a critical gap that allowed Alam and the other rioters to escalate. After the first set of officers withdrew, according to the government, Alam took a helmet from another rioter and struck the middle panel, further shattering it, as others chanted, "Break it down!" and "Let's f***ing go." Babbitt hoisted her body through one of the windows broken out by Alam, and with a single discharge a Capitol police officer on the other side fatally shot her in her front left shoulder. Babbitt fell backwards, instantly becoming a martyr to MAGA loyalists, Proud Boys and an even more extreme faction of white nationalists who advocate for racial separation.

Only three minutes before Babbitt's shooting at 3 p.m., the Washington Post has reported, lawmakers, including Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) were being evacuated through the Speaker's Lobby.

The government has singled out Alam among the rioters surrounding Babbitt for his "unhinged, violent actions at the front of that volatile mob."

Battle of the Lower West Terrace tunnel

While rioters poured into the Capitol building from both ends, others continued to engage US Capitol police, Metropolitan police and other agencies in a furious battle on the Lower West Terrace, tying up law enforcement resources and resulting in countless injuries. Officers fought to hold their position and deny entry through the prominent entrance leading into the Capitol through a short tunnel and series of glass doorways.

Photosretrieved from Thomas Webster's phone, via DOJ

Among those who joined the battle was Thomas Webster, a retired New York City police officer who had previously worked the security detail for City Hall and Gracie Mansion. Webster is accused of choking a police officer, causing him to lose consciousness and to not be able to breathe for 10 minutes.

Thomas Webster, unsourced photo published by DOJ

By 2:40 p.m., according to a government filing in the prosecution of Pennsylvania resident Robert Morss, rioters had "engulfed" the west side of the Capitol and were "climbing on the scaffolding in front of the build as well as various features of the building."

In phone texts with a friend two days earlier, Morss, a Penn State University graduate and Army Ranger veteran with three combat tours in Afghanistan, had written: "Just bring food water and medical shit and we'll be fine!" To another friend on the same day, Morss had texted: "I'll have my plate carrier on as well." He added, "I'm ready for anything and everything brotha."

Robert Morss, Battle of the Tunnel, screen from unsourced YouTube videos via DOJ

The scene at the tunnel on Jan. 6 is described in boilerplate language used by prosecutors in court filings for multiple defendants: "Officers reporting to the scene rushed to the tunnel from within the building while rioters outside of the tunnel continued to summon more men to push their way through the tunnel with a variety of tools and weapons. The tunnel became the point of an intense and prolonged clash between rioters and law enforcement at the United States Capitol."

The rioters displayed remarkable coordination, with Morss taking a prominent role. As described in affidavit supporting charges, a YouTube video shows Morss and other rioters rip a riot shield away from a Metropolitan police officer. Morss or another rioter — it's not clear from the video — yelled, "Send the shield back, send the shield back!" Minutes later, Morss reportedly carried the shield away and passed it to the rioters behind him, who in in turn passed further back into the crowd.

Morrs then walked out of the tunnel and into the crowd near the arched entrance and yelled to the other rioters: "Shield wall!"

"Rioters inside the tunnel use police riot shields and police riot batons to combat uniformed law enforcement officers," an FBI special agent wrote in an affidavit supporting charges against Christopher Quaglin, the unemployed electrician who had been restrained by Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean earlier in the day. "Rioters can be overheard planning and implementing a rotation of rioters to have the 'fresh' rioters up front to combat law enforcement, with various unidentified individuals yelling 'we need fresh patriots in the front' and 'we need fresh people.' Rioters are heard instructing the front line of rioters to make a 'shield wall' to prevent law enforcement from controlling rioters with oleoresin capsicum spray. Multiple rioters then use the stolen shields to push against the line of officers as additional rioters add their weight and push, too."

Christopher Quaglin in the tunnel, BWC

One of the rioters heard yelling, "We need fresh people," was Federico Klein, then employed in the State Department as a political appointee under President Trump and a Marine Corps veteran.

Another YouTube video shows Quaglin using a stolen shield to push up against officers in the tunnel, according to the government, and then hitting a Metropolitan officer in the side of the neck and face with the shield. Quaglin had recently sprayed OC spray directly in the face of the same officer, who was not wearing a face shield or gas mask, according to the government.

The time and location of the alleged offenses committed by Quaglin are so closely aligned with other rioters that he was indicted for multiple counts of assault alongside three other men — Patrick E. McCaughey III of New York, Tristan Chandler Stevens of Florida, and David Lee Judd of Texas — although no evidence has been presented to indicate that any of the men knew each other before Jan. 6.

By around 3:20 p.m., police had pushed the rioters out of the tunnel, but the battle would yet continue for another two hours.

At 4:17 p.m., according to the government, Morss and other rioters climbed through a broken window into a hideaway office for members of Congress, which had been unoccupied at the time.

"Video posted online showed rioters handing out furniture from the room through the broken window at different times throughout the unrest," an affidavit supporting charges against Morss reads. "Similar furniture (including what appear to be legs of chairs/tables and desk drawers) was then used by other rioters to attack officers guarding the Lower West Terrace doors, as capture by surveillance and BWC footage."

Bring the war home

After the siege, many of the insurrectionists celebrated their accomplishment of delaying certification of the electoral vote for almost six hours. They scrubbed their social media accounts and concealed evidence in anticipation of criminal charges. And some appear to have prepared for a protracted guerrilla war.

In late June, the government filed a motion in support of Proud Boy Matthew Greene's continued detention, citing an interview conducted by the FBI with an unidentified witness who identified Greene as being among "a group of individuals" who described their actions on Jan. 6. "According to W-1, members of this group said that anyone they got their hands on they would have killed, including Nancy Pelosi. W-1 further stated that members of this group, which included Greene, said that they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance."

In a Signal chat recovered from Greene's phone when agents raided his home on Jan. 18, Greene is alleged to have written, "'We had a f***ing rat in our ranks,' and encouraged the acquaintance to study guerilla warfare tactics based on their time in Afghanistan and to '[b]e prepared to do uncomfortable things' before sending multiple images that appear to reference the death of Ashli Babbitt, the rioter who was shot and killed inside the Capitol on January 6. He concluded, following those images, 'Don't forget what they did," before apparently attempting to make the message self-destruct in an hour."

Consistent with Greene's expression of support for continued resistance, fellow Proud Boy Charles Donohoe pushed back against another member who expressed the view that it would be "too late" once President Biden took office.

"No, it's not," Donohoe replied in a Telegram chat, according to the government. "It's never too late, ever.

"Facial recognition doesn't mean shit when you got a 5.56 green tip," he added, using a term that the government identified as "armor-piercing ammunition for assault rifles."

Zachary Alam was arrested on the run at a motel in eastern Pennsylvania on Jan. 30. The FBI agents who arrested him said his black Chevy truck bore a fictitious plate, and that a second plate stolen from a vehicle in DC more than two years earlier was stashed inside the vehicle. Agents also recovered a burner phone and a copy of Recoil OffGrid magazine, described by the government as catering to "an audience of people interested in living 'off the grid'" and providing "'practical' information about 'key topics you need to be resilient in the face of hardship,' including 'escape and evasion.'"

Similarly, when FBI agents raided Florida Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson's house in Titusville, Fla., they reportedly recovered a go-bag with a semi-automatic handgun, a burner phone and three books: The Book of Five Rings; The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering and Cooking in the Wild; and Technological Slavery: The Collected Writing of Theodore J. Kaczynski aka 'The Unabomber.'

Robert Morss, who had coordinated the shield wall during the battle of the West Terrace tunnel, was arrested on June 11 outside his apartment in the Pittsburgh suburbs while he was leaving to go to his job as a substitute teacher at Shaler Area Middle School. During Morss' arrest, law enforcement recovered three firearms, a military utility bag, tourniquet and military fatigues. They also found a notebook in his car with a handwritten checklist headlined, "Step by Step to Create Hometown Militia." The writings "included a list of names, a list of equipment, and a list of steps, such as 'Battle Drills'; 'Ambush'; and 'Formations,'" according to the government.

Morss' lawyers attempted to downplay the notebook in a response filed on Monday seeking their client's release from detention as he awaits trial.

"Although the government's concern is understandable," the lawyers wrote, "Mr. Morss reports that he utilizes 'journaling' in part as an outlet to express his trauma from serving in combat duty."

BIG VALLEY: Rumbling of insurrection continues in California's far-right MAGA world where the Proud Boys are revered

When thousands of people surged around the US Capitol, some of them fighting with police and pouring into the building, many believed they were acting on an authority vested in them as citizens to halt what they falsely believed to be a fraudulent election process.

Their conviction was reinforced by a swirl of other false beliefs, including that the incoming Biden administration was a Chinese Communist takeover, and that leading Democratic figures were part of a global pedophile ring that would soon be exposed by Trump and put on trial. Many rioters, most notably the Oath Keepers, hoped Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act and deputize them to mete out violence against left-wing resisters.

Countless people who participated in the attack on the Capitol invoked the first three words of the Constitution — "We the People" — to reporters, in social media posts or on clothing. Anthony Alexander Antonio, a self-identified Three Percenter who stole a gas mask from an officer as he was entering the Capitol, told a reporter from the white supremacist website VDARE afterwards: "We the People need to be heard. We're done with false elections." Mark Aungst wore a black sweatshirt with the words "We the People" arranged to look like an assault rifle. Others angrily denounced the police officers standing in their way as "oath breakers."

Republican leaders and their amplifiers on Fox News have deflected attention by floating false theories that the violence at the Capitol was the work of "antifa" infiltrators, that those involved in the riot were a "normal tour visit" or alternately that it was an inside job by the FBI — claims that have been embraced by some Trump supporters to dodge personal responsibility.

The Proud Boys are one of three groups whose members face federal charges of conspiring to obstruct the certification of the electoral vote, and by extension the peaceful transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. While the prosecutions have effectively halted the activity of dozens of members across the country who face federal charges, a look at Proud Boy organizing in one region, California's Central Valley, shows that the insurrectionary rhetoric that created the framework for Jan. 6 remains in play among members of the organization and the broader far-right movement in which they are regarded as heroic warriors.

Mark Mazzola, president of the Fresno chapter of the Proud Boys, and the chapter's sergeant-at-arms — a man nicknamed Chongo — confirmed to a right-wing podcaster in April that they had trained with a militia in Atwater, a small city in Merced County.

This is the fourth installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

Todd Cotta, a gun-shop owner and former sheriff's deputy who hosts "Rebel Radio Now," noted with approval during an April 1 episode of the podcast that the "patriot" militia was "600-strong."

"Yes, it is," Mazzola confirmed. "We trained with them before."

"We were just there," Chongo agreed. "It's great."

"God bless America," Cotta enthused. "And it's under the umbrella and the knowledge of the mayor and the police chief and the sheriff over there. That's the way it's supposed to be. Because if we are invaded by our government, we must push back."

Cotta's comment echoes a view widely embraced in far-right circles since the 1990s that armed citizen militias provide a hedge against a tyrannical government.

Atwater police Chief Michael Salvador told Raw Story that, in fact, he was unfamiliar with the group described by Cotta.

"This is the first that I have heard about any new militia in my city," he said in an email, adding that a group the California State Militia came to Atwater twice last summer, once to support a canceled "Back the Blue" rally and another time to camp outside the city.

"I have never met Mr. Cotta and he does not speak for me," Salvador added.

Working parallel to the Proud Boys and sometimes appearing at some of the same rallies in California, anti-vaccination activist Denise Aguilar of Stockton launched Mamalitia in 2019, but she ramped up promotion of the group after Jan. 6.

In a Telegram post, Aguilar promoted Mamalitia as an alternative for women who might be attracted to the Proud Boys, whose membership is restricted to men. The post includes a link to a California-based militia group "for the men looking into militias," and a link to the now-defunct national Proud Boys website "if you're interested in being a Proud Boy." Finally, Aguilar wrote, "For the women," and linked to the site for Mamalitia.

Mamalitia promotes its ability to train women preppers on homeschooling, firearms training, emergency communications and medic skills. Following the list of capabilities that recruits can expect to develop, the group's website declares: "The tyrants have created women who are ready to go like it's 1776."

Aguilar wrote in a Feb. 14 blog post: "While seeing the uprisings happening, the lockdowns not changing and children suffering, we decided it was time for change, it was time to go back to our roots and figure how to exit the system. Our main priority is our family, home and liberty."

As an anti-vaxxer, Aguilar joined the movement that emerged in the spring of 2020 to oppose COVID restrictions. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, Aguilar "repeatedly disrupted the California legislature and attempted to block the entrance to the building."

Aguilar often shares speaking engagements with Tara Thornton, with whom she co-founded Freedom Angels, an organization that opposes mandatory vaccination. The two women spoke at the "Rally for Health Freedom" in Washington DC on Jan. 6. Although she has not been charged, the Bee published a video that has been removed from her Instagram account in which Aguilar can be seen saying, "We stormed the Capitol, and patriots broke open the doors."

In the video, which was posted shortly after the Jan. 6 assault, Aguilar vowed to continue.

"This is a revolution, and we've been talking about this for a very long time," she said. "And it's here. We went into the Capitol. We keep going. We're marching on. We're going to keep fighting. We're going to keep going, especially in California. So, like I said, if you're ready for the frontlines, because there's no more time. We have no more time for emails and for newsletters and for things like that. We are frontline. Freedom Angels are patriots. We will storm our capitols, if needed. And we need more frontline leaders."

In May, Aguilar and Thornton spoke at an event billed as a "Patriotic Social Gathering" in rural Lander County, with a population less than 6,000, in Nevada, to celebrate the county joining the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, or CSPOA. Previously, in February, the Lander County Board of Commissioners had unanimously passed a resolution removing the county from Gov. Steve Sisolak's COVID emergency declaration.

In addition to Richard Mack, a former sheriff in Graham County, Ariz. who founded and leads CSPOA, other special guests at the county-sponsored event included Nevada gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert and Dr. Simone Gold. A personal injury lawyer, Gilbert reportedly stood on the steps to the US Senate on Jan. 6 and urged Alex Jones of InfoWars to join him. Gold, a California hydroxychloroquine advocate who also spoke at the "Rally for Health Freedom," is among those who have been charged in the Capitol breach.

On July 1, Aguilar posted on Telegram that she and Thornton have "created a plan" for "how to create constitutional counties," adding that "we have built relationships with key players."

In a recent video posted on the CSPOA website, Mack heralded the resolution passed by Lander County as a bulwark against "the next civil war.

"Folks, if we keep this going, it will prevent any violence from being necessary in America," he said. "If we have more sheriffs now standing up just like Utah sheriffs did, if we have more counties joining and standing, just like Lander and Elko, this will prevent the next civil war."

He quickly pivoted in the video to accusing President Biden of taking actions "that are going to promote more violence," citing a request for additional funding for the IRS to boost audits on high earners, and the White House's new focus on domestic terrorism.

The CSPOA promotes the view that the sheriff is the highest authority in a given county, and as such has the power to provide a "check and balance" against "any state or federal agency that may infringe on the natural rights of the people" — a position he confirmed in an interview with Raw Story. The CSPOA website sums up the position with one word: "interposition."

"We are witnessing great deeds of protection, service and interposition across America by courageous sheriffs who only want to serve the people who elected them," the website says.

Interposition has traditionally been claimed as a right of a state to cancel out actions of the federal government that it deems unconstitutional. Sen. John Calhoun of South Carolina cited interposition in the 1830s to preserve slavery in the South, and southern states turned to it in the 1950s in an attempt to avoid compliance with the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools. The Supreme Court rejected interposition in the 1958 Cooper v. Aaron ruling, which invoked Marbury vs. Madison to assert judicial supremacy.

Mack is currently on a national tour with Robert David Steele, a former CIA employee described by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights as "a prolific purveyor of antisemitism who spews conspiracy theories about 'satanic Zionists' engaged in a global plot against white people."

In late June, Aguilar reiterated her pitch for Mamalitia in a Telegram video that invoked the movie The Matrix and attempted to inoculate viewers against media pushback on her claims about vaccines.

"What we're creating is a solution in another way," she said. "We're creating schools and programs for parents who have special-needs children. Because the public-school system has failed these kids. We teach you how to grow food. We teach you about navigation. We teach you about safety and security. All the things that you need to know, just in case. With a network of very trusted and vetted women, we're gonna create another way. Don't let the media fool you — they just don't want you to leave the matrix."

The video found an audience, with one user commenting in response: "Mamabear here with two daughters, one with special needs — we are ready + preparing to leave this fear-driven matrix + toxic world."

Aguilar has shunned media requests over the past six months, but she told the audience in Lander County in May that she doesn't appreciate the way she's been described.

"I will not allow them to call me any extremist names because what we're doing is not extreme," she said. "We have our God-given American rights to hold our firearms without being shamed, without being told that we are anything other than Americans."

The CSPOA has also caught the attention of at least one Proud Boy leader in the Central Valley.

Sean Adam Kuykendall, president of the Central Valley chapter, was the first member of the public to address Modesto City Council following a June 8 presentation by Deputy City Manager Caluha Barnes on a proposed working group to explore changes in police accountability, policies and practices and response models. The working group was approved by city council after an officer fatally shot a 29-year-old man experiencing a mental health crisis. The working group would have 28 members, with four seats open to community members through an application process, Barnes said.

Kuykendall said he wanted to propose "a group that is taking the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into their own hands and implementing it as a broad swipe across every elected official's agenda, which should be that way — and this is the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association." He added that "there are people in Arizona that are elected officials that are being held accountable for breaking their oath." In further comments, Kuykendall and other Proud Boys would outright accuse city council of "breaking the Constitution" and "violating your oath of office" by setting up an inclusive process to garner citizen input for proposed changes to improve police accountability.

A representative of the Modesto City Attorney's Office provided the following statement to Raw Story: "The city council has not taken any action that violates the Constitution by their approval of the Forward Together work group."

Richard Mack told Raw Story that he doesn't know Kuykendall, and wasn't aware of his comments about CSPOA. Asked about the philosophical framework of Kuykendall's comments, Mack seemed perplexed. He said it wasn't unusual for law enforcement agencies to have citizen input, noting that he had a citizen advisory committee when he served as sheriff in Graham County. As to whether he would agree that Modesto officials are violating their oaths, Mack said, "He would have to quote the part of the Constitution that makes that unconstitutional. That's a strange comment."

Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she isn't surprised to see the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association cited by a member of the Proud Boys.

"One of the core tenets of the Proud Boys is that they think the people have a political will that they alone know and interpret and want to impose, and elected officials should uphold the supposed will of the people, which can be anti-democratic because the will of the people in the last election was that Joe Biden should be president," she said. "There's a desire among Proud Boys to use intimidation to force elected officials to submit to their will. There's an underlying threat in that rhetoric that can turn to violence. We saw in the last election a threat to elected officials and election workers that has not dissipated. We're still living in that environment, where force and intimidation are seen as legitimate tactics."

In his comments to city council on June 8, Kuykendall cited the Ninth and Tenth amendments in the Bill of Rights, appearing to argue that their sequence implied "the people" possess a superseding authority over government.

"Now, as far as I'm concerned, the Bill of Rights is very clear," Kuykendall said. "The Ninth is the people's rights. The Tenth is state's rights. That means that we as citizens have more rights than the state, the city council, what have you, on down the list. We are here to let you all know that we're not going to sit back and allow groups to come forward and push a one-sided agenda."

Kuykendall concluded his comments on June 8 with a vague threat of legal action. He said the Proud Boys will continue to come before city council and that he wanted to "get down to what really matters here."

"And that is that if we don't have law, if we don't have order — that order comes through the Constitution; it comes through the Bill of Rights," he said. "And these folks in Arizona that have broken their oath are now being under trial. I just went to LA this last week, spoke with some lawyers that are proceeding these things, these trials. And it is very apparent that we have a, must I say, Marxist-communist agenda that is coming into and infiltrating our local governments."

It is not clear what process is taking place in Arizona in which officials are being put on "trial" for having "broken their oath," and Kuykendall could not be reached for comment.

At the next city council meeting on June 22, Kuykendall returned, saying, "I come to address each and every one of you with a simple message — to stop breaking the Constitution."

Demanding to be included in the working group to address policing issues, he said, "Now, we tried to put in our application to go in and join this roundtable, and we've been denied."

Barnes, the deputy city manager, told Raw Story the city has not received an application from Kuykendall.

"So, here we are tonight to let you know that you have two options," Kuykendall said. "Incorporate the part of the public that represents the Constitution and Bill of Rights, or dismantle this oversight antifa committee, okay?"

At a rally outside city council on June 22, Mylinda Mason, who leads the Stanislaus County Republican Assembly, told supporters she was working with Kuykendall to collect affidavits for use in the legal challenge.

"I want to invite everyone to pay attention to Sean," Mason said. "He will be providing information as I get more, but on July 10th be willing and ready to sign your name to an affidavit to come against those people in this particular local [sic] that have went against their oath to the Constitution. And come and sign 'Crimes Against Humanity' with us. Sean will be announcing that to you soon."

Mason, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for Stanislaus County School Board, has worked with anti-gay campaigner Don Grundmann on the annual Straight Pride rally in Modesto. Mason's son, who is gay, has said that she home-schooled him from a white supremacist viewpoint. In response, Mason told NBC News: "Let's get the quote correct — it's Western civilization that was built by European males that came here to establish the greatest nation on earth."

Mason could not be reached for comment for this story.

Miller said the Proud Boys' political ideology hasn't changed since Jan. 6.

"This is a group that is authoritarian and anti-democratic," she said. "They want to impose their will through threats of intimidation and violence. If anything, we've seen that kind of politics become more normalized. The insurrection was the obvious moment when that occurred. The Proud Boys really do believe that the country is full of internal enemies that need to be purged, and that the country needs to be renewed and returned to former glory. In that way their ideology is very fascistic. They are going to continue to mobilize, continue to engage in rallies, and continue to intimidate local officials in ways that could lead to more violence."

This is the fourth installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

BIG VALLEY: How California Proud Boys forge alliances with anti-gay crusades to gain 'attention and recruits'

Founded by Gavin McInnes as pro-Trump men's drinking club in 2016, the Proud Boys transformed into the paramilitary vanguard of the MAGA movement in late 2020, providing security for campaign rallies and then playing an outsized role in the Capitol insurrection.

One thing hasn't changed since Jan. 6: Members of the self-proclaimed "Western chauvinist" group whose professed values provide a soft cover for thinly veiled white supremacy, remain an intimidating presence in cities across the country, further polarizing local struggles around issues of race, sexual orientation and police accountability.

California's Central Valley, where at least three active chapters feed members into flashpoints of conflict up and down the Highway 99 corridor, provides an example of how the Proud Boys remain a polarizing force in the culture wars that are rending the United States.

This is the third installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

In early April, an estimated 50 or 60 Proud Boys and other far-right allies reportedly showed up in Fresno kitted out in ballistic vests and equipped with hunting knives and bear spray. Facing off against local residents demonstrating to preserve an iconic theater at the center of an LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood, one Proud Boy allegedly shoved a pregnant woman to the ground. Mark Mazzola, president of the Fresno chapter, confirmed to a local news outlet that his group received reinforcements from Modesto and Bakersfield.

Weekly protests against the pending sale of the Tower Theatre began in February. The owner is currently leasing the theater to the proposed purchaser, Adventure Church — part of the Foursquare denomination, an evangelical Pentecostal spinoff — for Sunday services. Local residents organized under the banner of Save the Tower Theatre Demonstration Committee oppose the sale on grounds that the church violates the commercial zoning for the property and that it represents the loss of an important facility in the heart of one of the Central Valley's few LGBTQ-friendly areas. In the past, the theater has been used by an array of performing arts groups and has hosted Reel Pride, Fresno's LGBTQ film festival.

Understanding the neighborhood anchored by the Tower Theatre is crucial to appreciating why residents are so strongly opposed to the sale to Adventure church, said Jaguar Bennett, a local comedian and community theater actor. He compared the Tower District to a small-scale Berkeley or Greenwich Village.

"Tolerant, inclusive — we believe in diversity," he said. "We believe in art. We believe in living your own life. We are kind of a beacon, not just for Fresno, but the entire region. The Central Valley is the most conservative part of California. The Tower District is the most LGBTQ-affirming neighborhood. Between Sacramento and LA, this is it. We're a safe space for LGBTQ youth. You can see a play. You can see a band. You can shop in a thrift store. You can have a nice meal. You can do it all in three blocks."

Following the April 11 debacle, the police increased their presence at the weekly protests, and established a separation between the opposing groups. Since then, Bennett said, the Proud Boys haven't been a problem.

"Unless there is an opportunity to assault us or incite violence, there is no purpose for them to be there," he said. "They're only there to try to cause violent trouble. If the opportunity to cause violent trouble is removed, they're not interested."

One of the Fresno members framed the Proud Boys' opposition to the Save the Tower Theatre committee as a matter of preventing the progressive values of the Bay Area and Los Angeles from creeping into the Valley.

"Those places are cancer," said Chongo, the nickname for the Fresno chapter's sergeant at arms, during an April 1 interview with conservative podcaster Todd Cotta. "If we don't protect the Central Valley, our farmland areas, that cancer's gonna spread here. Then, next thing you know, California's a disaster.

"We need to fight that fight," he continued. "What I mean by that — it doesn't have to be physical. It's always going to be the last resort, but we've got to stop that before it hits here. And we're doing something in the Tower District…."

Two months later, addressing Modesto City Council, Chongo used almost identical language to argue against improving police oversight in the wake of an officer fatally shooting a man experiencing a mental health crisis.

"If anything, we are defenders of this country," Chongo said. "Somebody's gonna stand up. Somebody has to stand up. Because if we don't, this country's gonna burn. The cancer is already spreading into this community. It's gonna hit the rest of the Central Valley. You got LA and San Francisco in ruins."

Fresno cracks down on Tower Theatre protests after two arrests, one hospitalization www.youtube.com

On the issue of the Tower Theatre, Chongo told Cotta the Proud Boys got involved as a matter of supporting religious freedom.

"Well, we're just standing up for it because we believe it's a freedom of religion, which is our right as American people," he said. "Say the Tower Theatre loses, and they don't get their church. Well, there's a church just north of the Tower Theatre — they're gonna go after that church? I have a Bible study on Fridays. Pretty soon, they're going to come after where I have my Bible study, and I can't have it."

Bennett said there's no merit to any argument that the church losing the fight for Tower Theatre would be the first domino in a sustained assault on Christendom across the region.

"In a region as conservative as Central Valley, even our freaky people are not indisposed to religion," Bennett said. "There are plenty of churches, and many of them are LGBTQ-affirming. I don't even think anyone would care if this church would have even bought a building in our neighborhood that was properly zoned."

It's common to hear Proud Boys across the country ardently argue that they are not homophobic.

Addressing Modesto City Council on June 22, a Proud Boy who identified himself as "Eric" attempted to deflect criticism of the group by saying, "We love anybody of any sexual orientation."

Apparently unaware that crossdressing is not a sexual orientation, he continued: "In my chapter alone, we had a transvestite, happily, loved him."

The Proud Boy's further comments undermined his initial proclamation of acceptance.

"We welcomed him openly," he said. "We only removed him after we discovered he started using methamphetamine, because that's something we don't allow. Because as Proud Boys, we believe in upholding the Constitution, the American family, as well as the nucleus [sic] family, which the left is tearing apart."

Beyond the fact that the Proud Boys were started as a drinking club, allegations of members' drug use, including from one-time ally Omar Navarro, have proliferated for years, and Chairman Enrique Tarrio once said, "We're pro-drugs." Also, Eric's claim that the left is "tearing apart" the nuclear family aligns with a view that heterosexuality should be regarded as normative rather than promoting inclusion.

"They want to build a society that is built on hierarchy, one that strengthens existing hierarchies and that perpetuates inequalities that we have," said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "They believe that men are superior to women, that cisgender people are superior to transgender people. Really, strengthening the social stratifications that exist — that underlies all the political projects that they pursue."

Beyond counter-protesting the LGTBQ community and allies, Proud Boys in the Central Valley have forged an alliance with Don Grundmann, an anti-gay crusader from the Bay Area who is gearing up for his third annual Straight Pride rally outside of Planned Parenthood in Modesto in August. Although they distanced themselves from the first Straight Pride rally in 2019, the Central Valley Proud Boys showed up to support Grundmann in 2020. Another group calling itself the Central Valley Militia unfurled large banners reading "Patriots Against Pedophilia: One Solution Luke 17:2" alongside an image of an assault rifle. Whether intentional or not, the message could be read as a conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, with a clear call for violence.

Grundmann came to the June 22 Modest City Council meeting to publicize his event and defend the Proud Boys, whom he credited with providing security at the 2020 event; the Proud Boys have been regularly attending city council meetings to express opposition to a city-sponsored effort to improve police accountability.

"These are Christian gentlemen who want to defend the foundations of our nation," he said. "I believe that's fantastically important." Ironically, the Central Valley Proud Boys organizer quoted in the Modesto Bee's coverage of the 2020 event identified himself as "Odin," which is the name of a Norse god that is revered in the modern religion Heathenry. Meanwhile, Grundmann's National Straight Pride Coalition openly flaunts its homophobia, with a manifesto on its website describing the organization as "the frontline of the religious war between Christianity and its Satanism/Humanism opponent," and as readying for a battle "to stop the Jihad of the LGBT War Machine upon the children of our nation."

Although Grundmann denies being a white supremacist, "Caucasians" are singled out, along with "Western Civilization," on the National Straight Pride Coalition website as being "under unprecedented, sustained and coordinated attack within our society, culture and nation." Grundmann made national headlines when he made a gaffe while addressing Modesto City Council in 2019. The audience erupted in laughter when Grundmann, evidently flustered by sustained booing, said, "We're a totally peaceful racist group."

Beyond the Central Valley, Proud Boys also showed up to protest a meeting of the Los Alamitos USD School Board in Orange County as it approved new social justice standards. The Orange County Register reported that Superintendent Andrew Pulver switched the meeting from in-person to virtual because of concerns about potential unrest. In previous weeks, a proposal to add an elective ethnic studies class — also ultimately approved — had drawn protesters. Chad Loder, an antifascist who monitors Proud Boys and other far-right actors in southern California, identified a member of the Bakersfield Proud Boys chapter at the May 11 protest, along with Marcus Kelly, who was previously arrested in Fresno for illegal possession of pepper spray while rallying alongside the Proud Boys.

Miller said two important things are at play in the Proud Boys' increased engagement with local issues. Getting people involved in local politics has been a historical strength for the political right, providing opportunities for Proud Boys to build coalitions. And culture war issues offer a ripe opportunity for organizing.

"One of the things we saw as a flashpoint in the past was drag-queen story hours," Miller said. "Drag queens would read to children in libraries. This became really a point of organization for the far right, with Proud Boys going to community meetings and pushing back against this kind of programming. They realize this is a real flashpoint for the culture war. This will bring them attention and recruits."

This is the third installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

BIG VALLEY: Proud Boys turned on the cops -- but members are rebuilding ties with rank-and-file officers

In December 2020, the Proud Boys, a nationalist street gang that surged in popularity with Donald Trump's order to "stand back and stand by," began to turn against the police.

Up to then, the relationship had been cordial, with police amplifying the group's false claims and providing an escort to the Proud Boys as the gang meted out violence against antifascist adversaries, among other favors.

But on the night of Dec. 12, Proud Boys responded with fury as police blocked them from attacking a much smaller group of antifascists. "Do your job," they yelled at the police line, as shown in video published by journalist Ford Fischer. "Why do you f***ing protect them when they want to kill you?" "Oath breakers!"

Less than a month later, the epithet "oath breakers" would be hurled at police again. Only this time, law enforcement officials were not preventing a mob from attacking antifascists in the streets, but preventing them from laying siege to the US Capitol and attacking the vice president and members of Congress.

What might have been a rupture was complicated by the fact that almost a dozen current and retired law enforcement attack participated in the Capitol breach, including at least five who were actively employed at the time. Nor does the vaunted blue brotherhood appear to have prompted rioters with police ties to show any particular respect for fellow law enforcement at the Capitol: Thomas Webster, a retired New York City police officer is reportedly seen in a video shouting profanities at an officer, and then using a metal flag pole to strike one officer and tackling them to the ground.

Ongoing interactions between police and Proud Boys in California's Central Valley, one region of the country where the nationalist gang has remained active since Jan. 6, suggests little has changed in the relationship. Proud Boys continue to agitate for police to crack down on their left-wing adversaries, selectively decry enforcement action that goes against them, and work hard to build alliances with rank-and-file officers.

This is the second installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

Following the November 2020 election, as continued resentment towards COVID prevention measures and false claims of election fraud helped cement the coalition of Proud Boys and MAGA activists, the California Proud Boys claimed at least one police officer as one of their own. Video from a Nov. 21 rally in Sacramento shows then-Fresno police Officer Rick Fitzgerald dressed in Proud Boy gear and wresting a flag away from an antifascist counter-protester during a melee.

Fitzgerald acknowledged in an interview with a right-wing podcaster that the Proud Boys had been the aggressors in the clash. He said the Proud Boys' purpose that day was to provide security for a right-wing rally at the Capitol, but after the speeches concluded the Proud Boys and their allies marched over to Cesar Chavez Plaza, a traditional gathering space for left-wing activists.

"I think they were just trying to make a point," Fitzgerald said of the Proud Boys. "I did not agree with that at all."

The day after the rally, Fitzgerald said he left the Proud Boys. He told Cotta that he decided to start his own group, Sons of '76. Despite leaving the Proud Boys, Fitzgerald showed up at a rally in Fresno in March while off duty to counter-protest a group of residents campaigning to preserve the Tower Theatre as a LGBTQ-friendly space. The changeover from Proud Boys to Sons of '76 might not mean much to protesters on the opposite side of the barricades: Proud Boys showing up in group colors and tactical gear often create an intimidating vanguard at rallies that emboldens unaffiliated allies on the ground to act more aggressively.

Fitzgerald was fired by the Fresno Police Department over his involvement with the Proud Boys in April. Chief Paco Balderrama said he strongly "disapprov[es] of any police officer affiliating with hate groups, or any group known for engaging in violent criminal behavior. Such ideology, behavior and affiliations have no place in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department. Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community. The integrity and legitimacy of our police department must be maintained."

Fitzgerald told Cotta he decided to join the Proud Boys after watching an interview with Chairman Enrique Tarrio on CNN, and feeling that he was being treated unfairly by the interviewer.

"And I think I just got mad — well, I don't want to say mad — but I was concerned," Fitzgerald said, "because I felt like if everybody just lets the left determine what the narrative is, then we're just going to be defined by that. And if we don't ever say anything or unite, then we're just going to be called whatever — and that's it, and canceled."

Fitzgerald said he was approached after the Jan. 6 insurrection by FBI agents who wanted to talk to him about the Proud Boys. He surmised that agents had rifled through the archives of a Parler account he had shut down months before.

"I haven't run with those guys in a while," Fitzgerald said he told the agents. "I'm not with them."

"We don't care," Fitzgerald said one of the agents responded. "We wouldn't care if you were with them now."

A spokesperson for the FBI confirmed that position to Raw Story in a July 2 email, writing, "Our focus is not on membership in particular groups, but on individuals who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security."

In contrast to left-wing critiques of police as enforcers of deeply rooted structural racism throughout society, the Proud Boys' situational hostility towards law enforcement is focused on the degree to which the police pose as an impediment to right-wing insurrection.

Jeremy Bertino, who was among the Proud Boys challenging the police line in DC on Dec. 12, scorched law enforcement in a post on Parler following the Dec. 21 assault on the Oregon State Capitol.

"So all these people who scream 'Back the blue' constantly, how do you feel about what happened at the capitol in Oregon yesterday?" he wrote. "The police protected big daddy while he decided what rights to give us. I back good police who will protect your rights over their pensions. But don't get it twisted. They will be the first line of defense for the maggot politicians in office. Some will lay down the badge and join us; others will blindly defend the corrupt politicians who aim to enslave you. To POLICE EVERYWHERE, pick a f***ing side. This war is inevitable. You will find yourself at a crossroads and when you do, you will know. Will you follow the unconstitutional orders of your superiors? Or will you protect and defend the PEOPLE? The choice is yours. But it's coming."

Beyond the former officer Rick Fitzgerald's one-time involvement, a member of the Fresno chapter has claimed that the Proud Boys received assistance last year from the California Highway Patrol, which has not been previously reported.

Referencing a previous conversation with the chapter's "chaplain" — apparently referring to Chongo, the sergeant at arms, podcaster Todd Cotta asked chapter president Mark Mazzola about a "Lodi incident" that took place shortly after George Floyd's murder. Raw Story was not able to independently confirm the incident, but Chongo described it as a "BLM march" and said he was present.

"You guys have people inside of California government, and you guys have friends inside the CHP that help keep you in the know, right?" Cotta asked.


Mazzola nodded, although it's not clear whether he was confirming Cotta's statement or merely indicating that he was listening.

"Gavin Newsom [the state's governor] signed for CHP to escort three tour buses from Oakland to Lodi to do a BLM rally," Cotta continued. "So, the guys from the Modesto and Merced area over there got together and they formed a 300-person-with-citizens-and-the-Proud-Boys line where the buses were to stop."

"Wow," Mazzola said.

"And the buses stopped where they were supposed to stop," Cotta recounted. "There were 300 citizens of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, standing at the bus stop. The buses [sic] looked out, looked forward, got back on the [Highway] 99 and went northbound."

"Good, good," Mazzola responded.

While many of their far-right allies in California were rallying in early June to honor Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran and QAnon follower from San Diego who was killed by a Capitol police officer on Jan. 6, the Central Valley chapter of the Proud Boys kicked off a campaign to support Joe Lamantia, a Modesto police officer who was fired from the force and charged with voluntary manslaughter for killing a 29-year-old man experiencing a mental health crisis.

Body camera capturing the deadly encounter with Trevor Seever shows Lamantia getting out of his car and running towards him near a church in Modesto on Dec. 29, 2020. The Associated Press reported that the video shows Lamantia fire several shots at Seever in broad daylight even after Seever had complied with commands to put his hands up. According to the Modesto Bee, Lamantia had been involved in three other fatal shootings that were all ruled justified since 2010, along with one non-fatal shooting.

Kyle Seever, Trevor's brother, told city council last month that the family wants the city to implement an independent civilian review board with subpoena power and to appoint an independent police auditor. They want the city to field a mental crisis response team as an alternative to armed officers showing up. And they want officers to be tested for drugs and alcohol after every incident involving a physical altercation or discharging their service weapon. Based on public input during a listening session in late May, city leaders agreed to set up a working group to consider accountability, changes to policies and practices, and an alternative response model.

While the city's response to demands for reform might seem measured and noncommittal, the Central Valley chapter of the Proud Boys has seized the issue as an opportunity to strengthen ties with rank-and-file officers.

"The PD here has always been fantastic," chapter president Sean Kuykendall, who owns an appliance, air-conditioning and heating repair business in Modesto, told council on June 8. "And I'll say that they are underfunded, not overfunded. And I've had multiple officers tell me — because I have a lot of police officer friends — that they can't do their job, and they worry that they're going to be defunded, okay?"

Before council voted to approve the working group, four separate members took pains to explain that the council has never discussed defunding the police, with one calling it "misinformation."

"The goal is to make the community safer and to make policing more effective," Council member Chris Ricci said. "That's not anti-police, at all. And the fact of the matter — if you want facts — the fact of the matter's no one on this council has ever mentioned defunding the police."

At the next meeting, council chambers were split down the middle, with Proud Boys filling the seats on the right side, and the Seever family and a coalition of supporters and antiracist activists occupying the other side.

"We know what Sean is, and we know the violence that his group engages in has a clear goal: to get everyday working-class people to shut up and stop organizing for change," said one speaker, who called in to city council remotely under then moniker "Jail Killer Cops." "The fact that he can stand here and claim to have direct contact and support from local law enforcement should trouble everyone, and it's exactly this violent fascist-to-police crossover that is causing so many people to assert their rights to police the police in the first place."

This is the second installment in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

New Oath Keeper arrest: David Moerschel joined Capitol riot 'stack' and stashed rifle at 'QRF' hotel in  Ballston

A 12th member of the Oath Keepers military-style "stack" formation that ascended the east steps on Jan. 6 and entered the US Capitol has been charged with conspiracy in the government's widening investigation of the militia group.

David Moerschel, a 43-year-old resident of Punta Gorda, Fla., was arrested by an FBI task force officer in Fort Myers on July 2, according to court documents. He went before a magistrate judge in Fort Myers on the same day, and was released on condition that he not possess any devices that allow communication, with an exception for work.

Moerschel is charged with conspiracy to obstruct Congress' certification of the electoral vote to formalize Joe Biden's election as president. In addition to conspiracy and obstruction of Congress, Moerschel is also charged with unlawful entry into restricted buildings or grounds. Moerschel has not yet been indicted, but his charging document lists 16 other Oath Keeper members and affiliates who are defendants in a May 26 superseding indictment as co-conspirators. One defendant, Graydon Young, has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government prosecution.

Moerschel coordinated with other Oath Keepers by attending about 17 meetings on GoToMeeting between Sept. 28 and Jan. 3, according to the government. The affidavit filed in support of Moerschel's charges also allege that he participated in the "OK FL DC OP Jan 6" encrypted Signal chat to communicate with other Oath Keepers around the time of the insurrection, including coordinating travel from Florida to Washington DC.

In one message sent on the morning after the insurrection, Moerschel mentioned a "QRF" hotel in northern Virginia, where the government alleges that several Oath Keepers stashed firearms. The Oath Keepers referenced the weapons stash and the man responsible for guarding it as a "Quick Reaction Force." Communications between members indicate they utilized the hotel to avoid violating DC's more strict gun laws, but it remains unclear to what degree they formalized a plan to mobilize the force as a contingency in the event of escalating confrontation with law enforcement or antifascist opponents.

"We have your bag," Moerschel allegedly wrote to another Oath Keeper. "We will leave it with Kane at the QRF. We are en route there now." Surveillance footage from the Comfort Inn Ballston from Jan. 7 shows Moerschel among "three individuals wheeling a concierge cart with at least one long gun case onto an elevator," according to the affidavit. The FBI recovered a black jacket and a firearm with a long gun from Moerschel's attorney last month that appear to be consistent with what Moerschel was wearing and what he retrieved from the hotel on Jan. 7.

BIG VALLEY: California Proud Boys use secretive network to promote 'their white supremacist agenda' -- and go largely unscathed

Nationally, the Proud Boys organization is being tested by the ongoing prosecution of some of its top leaders for conspiracy in the assault on the US Capitol and internal dissension over the revelation that its chairman is a longtime federal informer.

But as the weight of state prosecution and media scrutiny bears down on the national leadership, the organization remains active and viable in many parts of the country — an indication that the future of the violent nationalist gang in the Biden era might focus on deepening engagement with local fights rather than highly publicized national-scale operations. California's Central Valley, where a 275-mile span of Highway 99 from Sacramento to Bakersfield allows members from various Proud Boys chapters to reinforce each other in varied local confrontations with leftist adversaries, provides one example.

This is the first in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

Alliances forged by Proud Boys with both local GOP activists and law enforcement have been challenged by the fallout over Jan. 6, but not completely undone, and in some cases new ties have blossomed. And while dozens of Californians have been charged in the breach of the Capitol, Proud Boys in the Central Valley have remained largely unscathed by the prosecutions, with the exception of Ricky Christopher Willden, a Madera County member with a history of clashing with leftists who was arrested by the FBI on June 30.

While continuing to forge ties with GOP activists, law enforcement and an anti-LGBTQ crusader, Proud Boys in the Central Valley have interjected themselves in an array of local fights, including opposing police accountability and joining forces with an annual "Straight Pride" rally in Modesto, and counter-protesting residents trying to preserve an LGBTQ-friendly theater in Fresno. They provided security for the Recall Gavin Newsom event in Bakersfield in February. Further south, in Orange County, Proud Boys joined a May 11 protest outside the Los Alamitos USD School Board to oppose adoption of new "social justice standards."

"There was a widespread belief that the legal crackdown would really hamper the group in its ability to organize or lead to its demise," said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "The problem is this group is so massive and well networked and there are so many chapters across the country that have autonomy that its network and organizing model have stayed in place. We've continued to see them involved in local organizing, much as in the past. There's been some strategic shift. People are interested in running for office. But they're still holding public rallies that descend into violence."

Miller said California has been a Proud Boys stronghold, along with the Pacific Northwest and Florida, for a number of years, and those same places continue to see the most activity.

Willden, a fixture at confrontations with leftists in Sacramento and Los Angeles, and in Portland, Ore., reportedly used the Christian fundraising app GiveSendGo to raise $1,300 for himself and 12 other Proud Boys from California to travel of the Jan. 6 "Save America Rally" in Washington DC. Eddie Block, a Proud Boy from Madera who relies on a wheelchair for mobility due to a disability, was also in Washington on Jan. 6. Block is well known among both far-right activists and antifascist researchers for live-streaming Proud Boys rallies on his YouTube channel. Block and Willden had traveled together at least once prior to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol: When the Proud Boys rallied in Portland on Oct. 2 to try to pressure law enforcement to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters, Block filmed Willden while saying, "This is my boy, Chris. He's here from Fresno. He came with me. He's taking care of me."

Block's video of Proud Boys leading a march on Constitution Avenue to the Capitol before Trump's speech at the Ellipse on Jan. 6 was mined by amateur researchers to identify participants in the siege. FBI agents raided Block's house and seized electronic devices on Jan. 22. Blocks' video is widely cited in charging documents against Proud Boys leaders Joe Biggs, Ethan Nordean, Zach Rehl and Charles Donohoe, who were indicted for conspiracy to interfere with the electoral certification, and also in government filings for six other Proud Boy defendants facing separate conspiracy charges who were from the Kansas City chapter and from Arizona. Nearly six months after the initial Proud Boys arrests, Willden was arrested by the FBI at his home in Oakhurst, in the Sierra foothills. The government alleges that Willden was part of a large crowd at the east door of the Capitol when it was forced open, and that publicly available video shows him "spraying an unknown substance from a green can toward police officers" guarding the door.

Judges have cited danger to the community in their decisions to keep top Proud Boys leaders in pre-trial detention. In comments from the bench during a June 23 detention hearing for Charles Donohoe, president of the North Carolina Piedmont chapter, Judge Timothy Kelly made it clear that he views the Proud Boys as posing not only a risk to the government, but to the community at large.

"There is significant evidence of a leadership role, significant evidence that Mr. Donohoe was part of a network," Kelly said. "Mr. Donohoe has the capability to assist in events that produce violence. He's now shown the capability to produce violence, whether against law enforcement or other civilians. These capabilities on behalf of Mr. Donohoe and his cohorts remain."

Once primarily a concern for local antifascist and Black Lives Matter protesters — and extremism researchers — the Jan. 6 siege telegraphed the Proud Boys' reputation for violence across the country as a national security threat. But the public relations liability of Jan. 6 has had little, if any, discernible impact on Proud Boys' activities in the Central Valley.

Proud Boys from the Central Valley and Fresno chapters showed up in force and wearing their traditional black and yellow colors at two city council meetings in Modesto last month.

"Shame to allow these Proud Boys in the city council meeting because, you know what… on January 6th they attacked our Capitol, the hallmark of our democracy," a speaker identified only by the initials "PB," told council during the public comment portion of the meeting on June 22.

Proud Boys in the council chamber jeered and responded with their customary salute: "Uhuru!"

"They're just here to divide and conquer our community," the speaker continued. "You know what? They talk about Bill of Rights and Constitution and all this nonsense, but they're bringing hate. They're bringing an agenda of hate and bigotry, advancing their white supremacist agenda."

In video of the meeting, other audience members can be heard yelling out, "Proud Boys are Nazis," and, "Proud Boys, leave right now. You're not welcome in our community."

At one point, when an argument broke out between Proud Boys and residents calling for police accountability, Mayor Sue Zwahlen ordered the meeting into recess to restore order, and interim Chief Brandon Gillespie had to admonish Proud Boys and their allies to stop interrupting the brother of a man who was killed by a Modesto police officer while he was addressing council.

During an April 1 interview on the "Rebel Radio Now" podcast, Fresno Proud Boys chapter President Mark Mazzola suggested to host Todd Cotta that no Proud Boy has ever committed a criminal offense.

"In fact, I can't remember a single time I've ever seen a Proud Boy get involved with something that was a criminal offense," Mazzola said. "People want to talk about the march on DC at the Capitol building; I don't remember seeing a single Proud Boy wearing a Perry out there." (Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio instructed members to not wear their traditional black and yellow color, which are incorporated into the Fred Perry polo shirts customarily worn by members, on Jan. 6.)

Cotta, a former Fresno County sheriff's deputy who ran unsuccessfully for California State Assembly last year, tossed Mazzola a softball question, using scare quotes to signal his shared disdain for the government's effort to hold the Jan. 6 rioters accountable.

"In that siege on the Capitol, that was not a Proud Boys function?" Cotta asked.

"Not as far as I'm aware of," Mazzola responded.

The relationship between the Proud Boys national organization and local chapters appears to be a subject that members are reluctant to discuss.

During a second episode devoted to the Proud Boys, on April 21, Cotta asked another Fresno member nicknamed Guyo how the national organization was functioning.

"We work through our ways," Guyo responded. When Cotta tried to elicit more, Guyo deflected: "We have a network. We just don't necessarily talk about it."

During the April 1 podcast, Cotta shared with Mazzola and the sergeant at arms for the Fresno chapter — a man with the nickname Chongo — that the Proud Boys earned his admiration when he heard about members responding to a man using an Airsoft gun to shoot marbles at Trump supporters at an event in Bakersfield where Cotta appeared as a speaker last October. Cotta said Proud Boys members chased the man down and detained him until police could make an arrest.

During the interview, Cotta expressed concern that the Proud Boys need to clean up their PR.

"The misinformation that is coming out about you guys is intentional," he told Mazzola and Chongo. "And you guys really have a challenge ahead of you. Even the 1 percenters and the bike guys, the [Hell's Angels] and those guys, they had to do their little toy runs and all those other things." He added a caveat that he's wary of outlaw bikers, and doesn't lump the Proud Boys into the same category.

"But what you guys have to do is separate yourself from what you're saying," Cotta continued. "Just a quick search on Google, they are 100 percent trying to crush you guys. And you guys have to figure out a way to combat that."

Backlash in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection local Republican organizations to distance themselves from the Proud Boys, whose function as a de facto GOP security force was cemented when Trump said, "Proud Boys — stand back, and stand by," during his Sept. 29, 2020 debate with Joe Biden.

Proud Boy Jeffrey Perrine, who was elected to the Sacramento Republican Party Central Committee in March 2020, was ousted from the party in February 2021. Party leaders called for Perrine's resignation after being confronted with a video from a 2018 rally in Portland that shows Perrine saying: "All the illegals jumping across the border, we should be smashing their heads into concrete, separate them from their kids, making sure they're not with pedophiles and child molesters, people like the left."

Notwithstanding Perrine's departure from the Sacramento County Republican Party, the gap between the Proud Boys and the nationalist, conspiracy-minded base of the GOP has all but vanished.

Jorge Riley, a GOP activist from Sacramento who bragged about occupying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the Jan. 6 siege on the US Capitol, was forced to resign from his position with the California Republican Assembly, an organization that works to elect GOP candidates. Released from custody with pending federal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and disorderly conduct, Riley not only appears to be unrepentant, but has openly flaunted his connections to the Proud Boys. Appearing alongside Perrine and far-right live-streamer Josh Fulfer at a Recall Newsom rally in Sacramento in early March, Riley says in the video: "I may or may not have rubbed my butt on Nasty Pelosi's desk."

In keeping with the Proud Boys' lack of remorse for their role in the Capitol insurrection, harassment and violence directed at leftist counter-protesters has also carried over from the period before Jan. 6.

Upwards of 50 Proud Boys from the Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield chapters showed up reportedly wearing ballistic vests and carrying hunting knives and mace to oppose local residents protesting the pending sale of the Tower Theatre to a conservative church in April.

During the confrontation, a pregnant woman protesting against the sale was shoved to the ground, said Jaguar Bennett, a spokesperson for the Save the Tower Theatre Demonstration Committee. No arrest has been made in the assault on the pregnant woman, but Marcus Kelly, 43, was arrested for possessing pepper spray as a convicted felon, according to a local report. Police reportedly said Kelly got in a fight with someone at the protest, and that he was seen talking and standing with the Proud Boys, but that he denied any affiliation.

Flanked by the police chief and members of Fresno City Council, Mayor Jerry Dyer denounced the Proud Boys during an April 14 press conference.

"I don't have an issue at all talking about the Proud Boys," Dyer said. "I think the fact they are going out there dressing in the manner in which they do, in a very intimidating factor, the fact that they have made intimidating comments to people who are out there, the fact that one of them pushed a pregnant woman this Sunday, which is absolutely uncalled for. If denouncing that behavior, denouncing that organization, if that is what is called for, then I believe each and every one of us city leaders have done that and will do that. They have no place in the city of Fresno, if they are going to be creating a divide, as they have. The vast majority of these individuals, if not all of 'em, are not even from the city of Fresno. Yet they come into our community and they try to create a divide. We are one Fresno, and that's exactly what we stand for. And when people come to Fresno, and think they can intimidate and divide this community, they're absolutely wrong."

Since his arrest in Fresno on April 11, Kelly has racked up a new charge for assault and battery, unlawful use of pepper spray and felony child endangerment following a road rage incident in Seal Beach on June 14. According to a statement posted on the Facebook page of the Seal Beach Police Department, Kelly followed the other driver, who had pulled off Pacific Coast Highway and stopped his car on a side street. The police said Kelly pulled up alongside the other driver's vehicle and sprayed bear spray into his vehicle.

"Three people inside the victim's vehicle, including one child, were exposed to the bear spray," the police said. "The victims all suffered injuries, including eye and skin irritation. When officers responded to the scene, they were also affected by the residual spray in the air and on the victims. The victims were treated by Orange County Fire Authority personnel."

In Modesto, a man who identified himself as Steve, complained to city council about being harassed by Proud Boys as they sat behind him during the June 22 meeting.

"I was called a homophobic slur, so I don't know where you get the idea that these guys are not homophobic," Steve said. "Also, outside this very building they physically swarmed around me to intimidate and harass me, although I repeatedly told them to get away from me.

"But I would like to introduce you to your new friends, the Proud Boys," he added with mounting frustration.

"Uhuru," the Proud Boys saluted in unison.

"Because if you don't fight it and you don't stand up against this hate group, which did participate in the insurrection at the Capitol, then what are you even here for?" Steve continued. "Modesto is located within the United States of America. That is a big issue."

This is the first in a four-part series focused on post-Jan 6. MAGA activity in California's San Joaquin Valley. You can read other installments in the series here.

California Proud Boy linked to clashes with antifascists accused of spraying chemicals at police on Jan. 6

"We have found a purpose in life and we know what must be done," Ricky C. Willden wrote on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo on a page that raised $1,300 for 13 Proud Boys to travel from California to Washington DC for the Jan. 6 rally, according to a report in the Washington Post. He signed off: "We are no longer Standing By! God bless America!"

In DC, the 39-year-old Willden joined a mob at the east door of the Capitol and cheered as the doors open, according to the US Justice Department, which announced his arrest today. As rioters surged towards the door, public video shows Willden "raising his hand and spraying an unknown substance from a green can toward police officers who were standing guard," according to the government.

Willden, a 39-year-old resident of Oakhurst in the eastern foothills of Madera County, is charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, and acts of violence in the Capitol building or grounds. He was expected to make his initial court appearance on Wednesday afternoon in the Eastern District of California.

Willden's LinkedIn page indicates that he works as a regional manager at GoldenState Insurance Services in Chowchilla.

Before joining a mob that attacked police at the Capitol, Willden had a history of clashing with antifascists on the West Coast.

A videoposted by an antiracist Twitter account shows Willden trying to pick a fight with a Black Lives Matter protester at an LAPD Appreciation Rally at Elysian Park in Los Angeles on Oct. 17, 2020.

After officers break up the fight, Willden, who is wearing a Proud Boys shirt, can be heard making homophobic and misogynistic insults. The speaker's face in the video clearly matches Willden's photo on his LinkedIn profile.

In another video published by ABC7 News, Willden can be seen wearing the same Proud Boys shirt during a clash between Proud Boys and antifascists during a rally to support Donald Trump at the state capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 14.

As described by reporter Dan Noyes, Sacramento police and California Highway Patrol officers on horses and in riot gear kept black-clad antifascists and Trump supporters separated for much of the rally.

"Then, the Proud Boys came around the block to confront the counter-protesters, unleashing a cloud of bear spray," Noyes reported.

Video shows Willden dressed in a black Proud Boys shirt and tan khaki pants shoving an antifascist wearing a helmet and holding a shield, and later grabbing a man by his jacket and maneuvering around him, before appearing to lunge at another person just off camera.

To date, almost 30 members of the Proud Boys, a nationalistic street gang that promotes "Western chauvinism" as a soft cover for white supremacy, have been arrested in connection with the assault on the Capitol. Among them, four face conspiracy charges alleging a coordinated effort to disrupt the certification of the electoral vote and peaceful transfer of power.

Trump Rally turns violent in Sacramento as Proud Boys, Antifa face off www.youtube.com

First boogaloo arrest, but court filing signals more members of violent movement involved in Jan. 6 insurrection

The first rioter involved in the Jan. 6 siege on the US Capitol who is overtly identified with the boogaloo movement has been arrested by the FBI.

An affidavit supporting a criminal complaint and arrest warrant cites a tip from an unidentified witness indicating that Steven Thurlow, a Michigan resident and Army veteran who was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990, went inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. The affidavit includes a photo retrieved from Thurlow's Facebook page that shows him posing in tactical gear next to a Christmas tree.

"Image 1 shows a man in camouflage tactical gear with a 'Boogaloo' patch on his chest, as well as a 'Torii' patch on the body armor," the affidavit reads. "Based on my training, experience, and other investigations, I know that the 'Boogaloo' is a term referencing a violent uprising or impending civil war. The term is sometimes used by militia extremists and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVE), who allude to it using shorthand such as 'big igloo' or 'big luau' and imagery such as igloos or Hawaiian shirts."

Among more than 500 people charged so far in the assault on the US Capitol, Thurlow is the first to be identified in government court filings as being associated with the boogaloo movement. But the affidavit supporting Thurlow's arrest suggests wider involvement in the violent but ideologically amorphous movement. The author of the affidavit, whose name is redacted but is identified as an FBI special agent "responsible for investigating domestic terrorism" says they are "aware that a number of Boogaloo members participated in the January 6, 2021 riot on the US Capitol."

CCTV footage of Thurlow reportedly shows him walking through the halls of the Senate side of the Capitol building "wearing a black backpack, black watch cap, a camouflage colored jacket, gray pants, yellow scarf and white-rimmed sunglasses.

In photo provided to the FBI by a witness that was reportedly taken from Thurlow's Facebook page, Thurlow comments, "The commies just fired this riot disbursement device at us. Guess what, didn't dispense."

The Christmastime photo of Thurlow in tactical gear includes the comment, "Ahh nothing like a new pair of 511's and fresh set of level IV SAPI's in the plate carrier to go 'peacefully protest' with."

The special agent explains in the affidavit that they are "aware that 'SAPI' refers to a Small Arms Protective Insert, and that a Level IV 'SAPI' plate is a high-level ballistic body armor plate that is rated to withstand a direct hit by a high-muzzle velocity armor piercing bullet."

FBI agents believe that after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Thurlow changed the name on his Facebook profile to "Stephanie Danielle Thurlow." The URL for the page still displays the name "steven.t.thurlow" and also includes the quote "you have never lived till you have almost died." The profile displays photos of men in military uniform that appear to be from Thurlow's deployment to Saudi Arabia, as well as a 2019 post showing Thurlow with two younger men at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. The photo shows Thurlow wearing a 101st Airborne Division shirt while posing in front of the giant rock engraving of Confederate leaders, which has long provided a rallying point for the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.

The affidavit notes that the "Torii" patch on Thurlow's body armor alongside the "Boogaloo" patch in the recent photo "is a symbol used by the 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division" and "is known as a gateway to honor and is used extensively by the unit."

Thurlow's LinkeIn profile indicates that he has worked mostly as a concrete finisher since his discharge from the military, but his most recent position is listed as a senior instructor for 210 DownrangE Gunsmithing.

While searching for Thurlow's Facebook account, FBI agents discovered that his son, also named Steven Thurlow is currently serving in the US Army.

The affidavit supporting Thurlow's arrest was published today by the Program on Extremism at Georgetown University, but at publication time no information was available on PACER, the federal court records clearinghouse, on the case.

Capitol rioter says he 'did nothing wrong' -- but still expects to be charged by the FBI with a brand new felony

A former long-haul truck driver in Washington state facing misdemeanor charges for entering the US Capitol building after marching with the Proud Boys on Jan. 6 said he expects to receive an additional felony charge for lying to the FBI.

Jeff Grace told an FBI agent who interviewed him at his home in Battle Ground, Wash. on Jan. 21 that he and his son, Jeremy, traveled to DC to attend the rally for Donald Trump, but he said the two got separated before he entered the Capitol. Jeff Grace was arrested on Feb. 4, and charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Jeremy Grace was arrested almost four months later, after the FBI retrieved a deleted video in which the father and son can be seen together inside the Capitol.

Jeff Grace's admission that he could be facing more legal trouble came during a recent interview with Todd Cotta, a gun-store owner and podcaster based in California's Central Valley who hosts the "Rebel Radio Now" show. During the June 14 interview, Cotta attempted to set the stage for his guest's account of his experiences in DC on Jan. 6 by mentioning that the father and son became separated.

"Not so much," Jeff Grace replied. "That was the original, uh…."

"Oh, okay, because that's what you hear," Cotta interjected, "is that you guys got separated."

Grace, a 62-year-old Army veteran, had to tell Cotta, a fellow Trump supporter, that his false statement about getting separated from his son was no longer viable.

"And you know what?" Grace said. "Let's share right now, because he has been arrested as of 10 days ago, because — I wanted to protect my son. I said I separated from him. So, now I have another charge that's going to be coming on me for lying to the FBI, which is a felony."

As of Tuesday, Grace has not been indicted for lying to a federal agent, a crime that can result in up to five years in prison. The US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which is handling the Jan. 6 prosecutions, did not respond to an email requesting comment prior to publication.

Reached by phone on Monday, Grace confirmed to Raw Story that he is still expecting to be indicted for a felony.

"I know it's definitely on the table," he said. "It's the truth. I lied. That's perjury."

Grace was forced to take an early retirement from Daimler Trucks North America due to his role in the Capitol insurrection. He had worked as a test fleet driver who tested new equipment on semis while shuttling parts between manufacturing plants on either side of the country.

Grace told Raw Story he has no regrets about his actions on Jan. 6, calling it "one of the most honorable moments in my life."

"Am I sorry I lost my career? Of course," he said. "People were very frustrated and still are. It's a sad situation in our country.... By God, this is the best country in the world, and that's what I'm standing for."

Grace has set up a website to raise money for his legal fund by selling T-shirts and hats bearing the image of the US Capitol with the words "Our House." The experience of losing his job has only made him redouble his political commitments, Grace said.

"For me to say, you know what, this fell into my lap at a really good time," Grace told Cotta during the June 14 "Rebel Radio Now" episode. "I've got ADHD, and I'm now forced to retire because I lost my job. Hey! I've got a new passion that I get to embrace. So, it's a blessing to me."

Although he has not formally received a plea offer, Grace said prosecutors have mentioned one year in prison as a possible sentence. But he told Cotta on June 14 and Raw Story again on Tuesday that he has no interest in a plea deal. He added that he is frustrated that he is not receiving discovery materials, and is threatening to fire his lawyer.

"Do I need a lawyer? Nope, because I'm telling the truth," Grace told Raw Story. "If they convict me for telling the truth — faith is huge to me. What's going on in my country is not okay.

"You know what?" he added. "If they feel comfortable putting me in prison because I tried to protect my son, I guess I'll have to deal with that."

The charging document for Jeremy Grace references multiple videos showing Jeff Grace and Jeremy Grace marching with the Proud Boys in Washington DC prior to the assault on the Capitol.

In his comments to Cotta, Jeff Grace appeared to try to absolve the Proud Boys from responsibility for the siege on the Capitol.

"I walked with the crowd," Grace said. "And they're saying the crowd is now sponsored by Proud Boys, which I didn't see not one flag, not one hat, not one T-shirt that was black and yellow, so I'm going, 'Okay, where does this come from?'" (Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio announced on the social media platform Parler prior to Jan. 6 that on that date members would "not be wearing our traditional black and yellow" and Joe Biggs, a national leader, recorded a video saying, "We will not be attending DC in colors." Biggs is among four Proud Boys leaders who face conspiracy charges in the assault on the Capitol.)

In comments to Raw Story, Grace characterized the march as "a group of patriots," despite the fact that publicly available video plainly shows prominent Biggs and Ethan Nordean, another prominent national leader who is also charged with conspiracy, giving verbal commands to the marchers.

While distancing himself from the Proud Boys on Jan. 6, Grace has made positive comments about them since that time. ignoring the Proud Boys' track record of violence, he praised the group to Cotta as "civilians" who "have been taking it upon themselves" to act where law enforcement is perceived as failing to take a hard line against left-wing antifascist and Black Lives Matter protesters. In contrast to charges by the Proud Boys and their supporters that police are unwilling to enforce the law against Black Lives Matter protesters, journalists and researchers have repeated instances of police repression against the wave of protests following George Floyd's murder last year.

"And you know, they're willing to be men in America," Grace said of the Proud Boys. "And unfortunately, the law enforcement's hands are tied so much, so civilians have been taking it upon themselves, whether it's the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, whatever. And are they doing it effectively? Maybe not so much. But you know what? Their heart is in it for the right reason."

Grace said the doors on the north side of the Capitol were open when he went in.

"It was like walking into Kmart," he said. "Walked — I didn't even think about it. I walked right on in. Had no intention of walking in, but followed my feet and was led by my heart."

At one point, Grace said he saw another rioter carrying what appeared to be a metal pipe and asked him to give it to him, before taking it from him and stashing it behind a statue so no one would use it. He told Raw Story, he wants to see the security footage from inside the Capitol to confirm his good deed.

A selfie-style video cited in the charging documents for Jeremy Grace shows the father and son together inside the Capitol. "Just made it into the Capitol here," Jeremy Grace reportedly says. "Oh yeah, oh yeah."

In response, Jeff Grace says, "It gets no better than this," and, "God bless America."

During his June 14 interview with Todd Cotta, Jeff Grace complained, "And I'm wondering, is that why — is that a sin or was that anti-American or what? Because I did nothing wrong in there."

Grace repeatedly emphasized in his interview with Cotta that he holds no regrets for storming the Capitol, and, if anything, is ready to defy a government that he views as "tyrannical" again.

Grace told Cotta that he "came to California to align with you," adding, "I'm not a general. And I don't want to be a general. But I want a general who thinks and acts the way that makes me proud."

Later, Cotta rhapsodized, "Our framers had it right, where there will be a time coming where we must stand up for our country and for our people."

"Exactly," Grace agreed.

"And in a government that is tyrannical, it is our responsibility to untie that knot," Cotta said.

"This is amazing," Grace marveled. "Sitting here, your heart is right where mine's at."

'Make a shield wall!': New indictment charges growing number of violent Capitol rioters

Federal authorities continue to make new arrests in the Jan. 6 breach of the US Capitol, including individuals accused of frenzied assaults on law enforcement officers.

Geoffrey Sills, a 30-year-old man from Mechanicsville, Va., "threw multiple objects, including pole-like objects, at law enforcement officers" as rioters overwhelmed police on the lower west terrace of the Capitol, according to a US Justice Department press release. According to the government, Sills was among the first group of rioters to enter the tunnel around 2:41 p.m. Surveillance footage reportedly captured him holding up his phone as if he were recording, and investigators later discovered "the same activity […] captured in video footage posted to the defendant's Instagram account." The government also alleges that while Sills was inside the tunnel, "he repeatedly struck multiple police officers with an extended baton while using a strobe light, apparently to try to disorient the officers."

The counterterrorism section at DOJ is assisting the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia with prosecution in Sills' case.

Sills was arrested in Virginia on Monday, according to federal court records, following his indictment on June 16, along with five other men. Sills was indicted on four counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers with a dangerous weapon, and other related charges.

The other defendants had been charged previously. The six men, including Sills, charged in the third superseding indictment are accused of committing some of the most violent assaults on officers during what the government describes as "an intense and prolonged clash between rioters and law enforcement" at the lower west terrace and a tunnel leading from the terrace into the Capitol building.

In addition to Sills:

• Patrick McCaughey III is accused of pinning MPD Officer Daniel Hodges against the lower west terrace door with a riot shield as another rioter ripped off the officer's gas mask, exposing his bloody mouth. Numerous other rioters behind and around McCaughey reportedly pressed up against him, putting pressure on Officer Hodges.

• Christopher Joseph Quaglin, of New Brunswick, NJ, is accused of shoving and striking officers on the police line, and grabbing one of them by the neck. In another incident, Quaglin is described in a government affidavit as being part of a group of rioters that pushed down officers and picked up their riot shields. Later, after breaching the Capitol, Quaglin allegedly sprayed a chemical irritant directly into the eyes of an MPD officer.

• Tristan Chandler Stevens is accused of using a riot shield to push against a line of officers at the tunnel entrance, striking one officer in the helmet with the shield, and trying to wrest a baton away from another officer.

• David Lee Judd, of Carrollton, Texas, is accused of lighting an object on fire and throwing it at a line of officers guarding the lower west terrace doors.

• Robert Morss, of Glenshaw, Pa., is accused of trying to wrest a helmet visor away from an officer, stealing a shield and passing a stolen baton to another rioter, as well as issuing verbal commands to other rioters to form a "shield wall." According to the affidavit supporting Morss' arrest, he was part of a group of rioters yelling "heave ho" and pushing in unison against officers guarding the doors while McCaughey pinned down Officer Hodges with the stolen riot shield.

"Hey, everyone with a shield, back up and organize!" Morss yelled to other rioters in the tunnel. "Make a shield wall! Organize right now and make a shield wall. Where are those fucking shields!"

The narrative description in charging documents for the six defendants is striking for the level of coordination and improvisational planning attributed to the rioters clashing with officers.

"As captured in YouTube Video 1, inside the tunnel, rioters use police riot shields and police riot batons to combat uniformed law enforcement officers," one investigator wrote in an affidavit supporting charges against Stevens. "Unidentified rioters can also be overheard planning and implementing a rotation of rioters to have the 'fresh' rioters up front to combat law enforcement, with various unidentified individuals yelling 'we need fresh patriots in the front' and 'we need fresh people.' Unidentified rioters are heard instructing the front line of rioters to make a 'shield wall' to prevent law enforcement from controlling rioters with oleoresin capsicum spray. Around the same time, Stevens can be seen grabbing one of the riot shields that is being passed forward in another video posted to YouTube."

To date, about 465 people have been arrested on charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, with almost a third accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

Anti-CRT group spotlighted by Fox News circulates article from white nationalist website

The founder of a local parents organization at the forefront of a conservative backlash against equity efforts in Loudoun County Public Schools in northern Virginia re-shared and then hastily removed an article produced by a white nationalist outfit on its website today.

Scott Mineo, the founder of Parents Against Critical Theory, or PACT, received national attention when he appeared on "Fox & Friends in April. Introducing the segment, host Steve Doocy suggested without evidence that Loudoun County Public Schools are teaching critical race theory, while artfully shifting the onus to justify the coverage to his guest.

"A Virginia parents groups is fighting to keep critical race theory out of their classrooms in Loudoun County, Virginia," Doocy said. "They've released evidence that they say proves the controversial curriculum is being used in their schools." A spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools has previously told Raw Story that critical race theory is not taught in classrooms, and the nearly 5-minute segment providing Mineo with a national platform on "Fox & Friends" presented no evidence to the contrary.

On Thursday morning, the PACT website re-published an article that appeared two days earlier on the National Justice website. The article covers a protest led by Mineo's group that resulted in opponents of critical race theory and the district's transgender policy being arrested after the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office declared an unlawful assembly at a school board meeting that became unruly. While substituting a different headline, the PACT website otherwise re-published the National Justice article as a copy-and-paste, using the same text, including original links to mainstream and right-wing news outlets and a link to author Eric Striker's bio page.

Striker, whose real name is Joseph Jordan, is the editor-in-chief of the National Justice website, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "junk news website." As the SPLC reported, Jordan helped found the similarly named National Justice Party in 2019, along with other contributors to The Right Stuff podcast, a hub for alt-right and white supremacist propagandists that played an influential role in generating interest for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Jordan marched with the now-defunct neo-Nazi group Traditionalist Worker Party at Unite the Right, which erupted in clashes between neo-Nazis and antifascists, and resulted in the death of an antiracist activist who was murdered in a white supremacist car-ramming attack.

The Right Stuff "promoted the candidacy of Donald Trump in 2016 through podcasts and traffic in Holocaust denial and other antisemitic conspiracy theories," the SPLC reported, and its successor the National Justice Party similarly launched on "a platform shaped around a conspiracy theory suggesting that whites are being deliberately eliminated in the US."

The article published by Jordan and re-shared by PACT focuses on a Loudoun County Sheriff's Office major who is Black and who is seen in video of the arrest of one of the conservative protesters on Tuesday. The article baselessly claims that the enforcement actions by the sheriff's office are racially motivated, and signals distrust in Black police officers in a manner that hearkens back to the Jim Crow era, when Black law enforcement officers were restricted to policing Black areas and were not allowed to arrest white people.

"McDonald represents a relatively new breed of law enforcement officer that has been encouraged to selectively apply the law based on their political views or racial identity," Jordan writes in the article, without citing any evidence.

Reached by Raw Story on Thursday morning, Mineo indicated he was not aware of the National Justice Party's white nationalist and antisemitic platform.

"I don't know who this organization is exactly," he said. "I did a little research."

Mineo declined comment further on what he learned about the party, beyond a suggestion to look at the links in the article. As a basis for his reluctance to speak further, he cited his displeasure with a previous Raw Story article reporting on racist and anti-Muslim Facebook posts made on a Facebook alt account in 2017, arguing that it was irrelevant to his current activism opposing critical race theory. In an interview for that story, Mineo did not deny being the owner of the "Vito Malara" Faceobook account and acknowledged authorship of some of the posts.

Roughly 10 minutes after Mineo spoke with Raw Story on Thursday, the National Justice article was removed from the PACT website.

Posting on the "Vito Malara" account, Mineo has previously floated a conspiracy theory on Facebook that Unite the Right was contrived by shadowy left-wing operatives. Sharing a Breitbart story that notes that Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler at one time supported President Obama, "Vito Malara" wrote, "There's always more to the story when Liberals get all bent out of shape."

The Facebook post magnified the significance of Kessler's earlier support for Obama, while omitting any mention that later his political views took a hard-right turn that led to him joining the Proud Boys and convening a coalition of white supremacists to rally around the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville.

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