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- There’s no evidence to support baseless claims that what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was staged, a psychological operation or a “false flag.”
- A mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol after he delivered a speech in which he insisted he won the election, repeated falsehoods about the election, and urged the crowd to march to Congress.
Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. As the mob could be heard shouting outside the doors of the Senate, police escorted first Vice President Mike Pence and then senators out of the chamber. The intruders took turns posing for photographs at the dais.
But online, another narrative is unfolding as some deny what happened and instead push "false flag" claims. (False flags are supposed covert operations designed to deflect blame. They are frequently the subject of conspiracy theories.)
"The moment we realized this is a staged psyop," someone tweeted, sharing a video of a Capitol police officer retreating as a mob of people walks toward him.
Other social media users have shared an image of a man behind the dais in the Senate chamber with his arm raised. Standing above him in the gallery, a photographer is pointing his camera down.
The photographer is circled and a red arrow is drawn pointing to another red circle around the man at the dais.
"This look staged to you?" reads the text over the image. "Fist in the air classic Trump supporter signal, right?"
But text elsewhere on the photo seems to refute that illusion: "NOT MAGA," it says.
"I have friends in DC now and they are saying don’t believe the media," said one Instagram post that shared the image. "Antifa is who stormed the capital through the back. Protesters are in the front praying and singing. They are looking to divide us even more. They are also blocking live streams from real people. Why on earth would they do that? They don’t want you to see what’s really going on."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We’ve also found that, contrary to rumors on both sides of the political spectrum, evidence so far has shown that Capitol Police were outnumbered and overwhelmed by the rioters and forced to retreat.
To dismiss the insurrection as a false flag is to dismiss the testimony of dozens and dozens of lawmakers, government employees and journalists who were at the Capitol that day to cover Congress certifying the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Rep. Patrick Fallon, a Republican from Texas, recalled on Facebook that "the mob reached the actual doors to the House Chamber and there was visible concern on everyone’s faces." He described lawmakers breaking off furniture "to make clubs to defend the US House of Representatives."
Reporters were initially stuck in the gallery on the third floor overlooking the chamber, CBS News reporter Grace Segers wrote in a story about what it was like to be there.
NBC News reporter and producer Frank Thorp posted a video from the gallery showing intruders roaming the Senate floor and looking through desks.
Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general Trump appointed to replace William Barr, issued a statement on Jan. 7 saying that the "nation watched in disbelief as a mob breached the Capitol Building and required federal and local law enforcement to help restore order."
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said, "The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington."
There is no evidence that it was staged, a psychological operation, or a false flag.
We rate these claims False.
Instagram post, Jan. 6, 2021
Tweet, Jan. 6, 2021
PolitiFact, Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa, Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, High-ranking California Republican lawmaker pushes misinformation about storming of U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021
PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: Did Capitol Police let mob of Trump supporters in? Jan. 6, 2021
The Daily, An assault on the Capitol, Jan. 7, 2021
Patrick Fallon Facebook post, Jan. 6, 2021
Igor Bobic tweets, Jan. 6, 2021
CBS News, Inside the Senate chamber as lawmakers evacuated and rioters stormed the Capitol, Jan. 7, 2021
Frank Thorp tweet, Jan. 6, 2021
Jeffrey Rosen statement, Jan. 7, 2021
Steven Sund statement, Jan. 7, 2021
Politifact, A day of crisis at the US Capitol, fact-checked, Jan. 6, 2021
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