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After the Capitol riot, rumors that anti-fascist activists were behind the violence were promoted by social media users, pundits and Republican lawmakers. There is no evidence to support them.
Public records and hundreds of videos taken at the Capitol show that the rioters consisted of Donald Trump supporters, members of right-wing groups and supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.
Federal officials have arrested more than 100 people suspected of participating in the insurrection. FBI charging affidavits show that several of them appear to have ties to militia and far-right groups — not antifa.
After rioters interrupted the Electoral College vote count, rumors swirled online and in the halls of Congress. One popular narrative: left-wing activists — not supporters of Donald Trump — were behind the insurrection.
Since Jan. 6, we’ve fact-checked several claims that blame antifa, short for anti-facist, for the breach of the U.S. Capitol Building. Republican lawmakers, conservative pundits and social media users have said the loose coalition of communists, socialists and anarchists infiltrated a crowd of Trump supporters to stoke violence.
There is no evidence to support those claims.
The Associated Press reviewed public records for more than 120 people identified at the insurrection and found that they included GOP donors, members of far-right militia, and supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory. ProPublica archived more than 500 videos taken Jan. 6 that show people in and around the Capitol wearing Trump apparel, carrying Confederate flags and sporting the symbols of QAnon. Specific individuals held up as antifa activists have turned out to be Trump supporters or QAnon enthusiasts.
Now, court documents show that the FBI is investigating connections between the Capitol rioters and far-right groups — not antifa.
FBI Assistant DirectorSteven D'Antuono said during a Jan. 8 press briefing that there was "no indication" that antifa activists were involved in the insurrection. Since then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has charged more than 100 people with crimes related to the Capitol riot, many who bragged on social media about taking part, and the FBI has arrested more than 40. Several suspects appear to have connections to militia and far-right groups.
One of them is 24-year-old Robert Gieswein of Woodland Park, Colo., who turned himself into authorities on Jan. 18. In a charging affidavit, the FBI wrote that video taken in and around the Capitol shows that Gieswein participated in the riot and faces several charges, including assault on a federal officer and destruction of government property. He appears to be affiliated with the Three Percenters, a group that’s part of an anti-government militia movement, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Three Percenters is one of several far-right groups that the FBI is examining in connection to the Capitol riot. Others include the Proud Boys, an all-male group with a history of violent confrontations, and the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia that’s affiliated with the Three Percenters. The Washington Post combed through footage from the insurrection and identified symbols associated with all three organizations in the crowd.
Right-wing extremist groups aren’t just suspected of taking part in the insurrection — federal officials are investigating to what extent they planned it ahead of time.
For weeks on niche internet forums like TheDonald and mainstream social media platforms like Facebook, Trump supporters had planned a Washington rally to protest the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump himself tweeted his invitation and welcomed their presence. The day before the insurrection, an FBI field office in Virginia issued a warning that extremists were headed to the Capitol, according to an internal document reviewed by the Washington Post.
A suspected member of the Oath Keepers, Jon Schaffer of Columbus, Ind., traveled to Washington to participate in the rally, according to another FBI charging affidavit. He was arrested Jan. 17 and charged with engaging in an act of physical violence for allegedly spraying U.S. Capitol police officers with bear spray.
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
"The photographs show Schaffer in a blue hooded sweatshirt under a tactical vest with a baseball cap that reads ‘Oath Keepers Lifetime Member,’" the affidavit says underneath an image of what it says is security footage of Schaffer. "The ‘Oath Keepers’ is an organization that characterizes itself as a militia of former law enforcement and military personnel and has often, as a group, urged President Trump to declare martial law in order to prevent the Congress from certifying the electoral college results."
The false claim that Trump won the presidential election appears to have motivated several people suspected of participating in the Capitol insurrection.
An FBI affidavit filed Jan. 19 charges three people with six crimes, including conspiracy and destruction of government property. Thomas Caldwell, an apparent leader of the Oath Keepers, and Ohio militia members Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crow allegedly forced their way into the Capitol to disrupt the certification of Biden’s win, the FBI said. In the affidavit, the FBI included alleged Facebook correspondence from the three defendants dating back to late December.
"It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets," Caldwell wrote Dec. 31 in a reply to a Facebook comment, according to the affidavit.
While inside the Capitol, according to the affidavit, Caldwell received a message that read: "All members are in the tunnels under capital (sic) seal them in. Turn on gas."
"Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today," Watkins wrote Jan. 6 on Parler, a Twitter alternative popular with conservatives, according to the affidavit. "Teargassed, the whole, 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today."
In addition to members of the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, figures associated with the Proud Boys have also been arrested in connection to the Capitol insurrection. But many rioters remain unidentified. In the Caldwell charging affidavit, the FBI mentioned several unknown individuals with whom the defendants corresponded — and the agency is reviewing tens of thousands of photos and video tips from the public.
"This is an unprecedented incident," D'Antuono said in a Jan. 15 statement. "If this investigation was a football game, we’d still be in the first quarter."
Associated Press, "Records show fervent Trump fans fueled US Capitol takeover," Jan. 10, 2021
BuzzFeed News, "‘If They Won’t Hear Us, They Will Fear Us’: How The Capitol Assault Was Planned On Facebook," Jan. 19, 2021
BuzzFeed News, "The FBI Says There's No Evidence Of Antifa Involvement In The Capitol Mob," Jan. 8, 2021
BuzzFeed News, "The Rioters Who Took Over The Capitol Have Been Planning Online In The Open For Weeks," Jan. 6, 2021
The Daily Beast, "‘This Is Awesome!’: Another Proud Boys Leader Arrested for Storming U.S. Capitol," Jan. 20, 2021
PolitiFact, "A day of crisis at the US Capitol, fact-checked," Jan. 6, 2021
PolitiFact, "Ask PolitiFact: What is antifa, and why is it all over my timeline?" July 2, 2020
PolitiFact, "Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa," Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, "Here’s how we know Trump’s repeated claim of a landslide victory is wrong," Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, "The House impeached Donald Trump over his speech before the Capitol attack. Here’s what happens next," Jan. 13, 2021
PolitiFact, "No evidence that antifa incited Ashli Babbitt shooting," Jan. 14, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, the Capitol insurrection was not staged by antifa," Jan. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, the FBI didn’t confirm antifa activists breached the Capitol," Jan. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, "What is QAnon, the baseless conspiracy spilling into US politics?" Aug. 27, 2020
ProPublica, "What Parler Saw During the Attack on the Capitol," Jan. 17, 2021
Southern Poverty Law Center, ANTIGOVERNMENT MOVEMENT
U.S. Department of Justice, INVESTIGATIONS REGARDING VIOLENCE AT THE CAPITOL
U.S. v Jon Ryan Schaffer FBI charging affidavit, Jan. 18, 2021
U.S. v Robert Gieswein FBI charging affidavit, Jan. 18, 2021
Wall Street Journal, "Who Are the Proud Boys? The Group Trump Told to ‘Stand Back and Stand By,’" Jan. 5, 2021
The Washington Post, "FBI probes possible connections between extremist groups at heart of Capitol violence," Jan. 18, 2021
The Washington Post, "FBI report warned of ‘war’ at Capitol, contradicting claims there was no indication of looming violence," Jan. 12, 2021
The Washington Post, "Identifying far-right symbols that appeared at the U.S. Capitol riot," Jan. 15, 2021
The Washington Post, "Self-styled militia members planned on storming the U.S. Capitol days in advance of Jan. 6 attack, court documents say," Jan. 19, 2021