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Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

Riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke January 8, 2021

No, the Capitol insurrection was not staged by antifa

If Your Time is short

  • A growing number of protesters have been identified and connected to long histories supporting Trump, QAnon and far-right causes. This includes people some have claimed were antifa activists.

  • The video presented as evidence here shows a brief exchange that doesn’t in any way establish collusion. And it occurs late in the situation, not before it.

  • There is no credible evidence that the crowd was infiltrated or led by antifa activists in disguise.

In the wake of a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol that left four protesters and a Capitol Police officer dead, many on the far-right are seeking to minimize the violence and deflect blame from an attack intended to disrupt the finalizing of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

One persistent claim is that bad actors from the far-left impersonated supporters of President Donald Trump and are actually responsible for the violence.

Let’s be clear — this is completely fabricated. Nevertheless, this line of thought has pervaded social media, amplified by prominent voices such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama. PolitiFact National rated claims from both Pants on Fire.

Here, we add a would-be candidate for Wisconsin governor to that list.

Jonathan Wichmann, who has accumulated 27,000 followers on a Facebook page describing him as a 2022 gubernatorial candidate, posted a YouTube video Jan. 8, 2021, with the following description:

"A meeting between DC police and rioters / Antifa beforehand. If you don’t know that the DC looting was staged think again."

Antifa is short for anti-fascist, a term often used to describe a loose collection of activists who rally against fascism and far-right groups.

The accompanying 18-second video shows one man taking a selfie with what appears to be a Capitol Police officer while someone says, "Hey Cap’" twice. It takes place inside the U.S. Capitol.

But Wichmann’s claim flies in the face of a litany of evidence without presenting any reasonable evidence itself.

Wichmann’s claim and video

Wichmann did not respond to an array of messages seeking a defense of his claim.

He posted the video on a little-viewed YouTube channel, but also linked to it on his more highly-trafficked Facebook page.

(Wichmann himself linked to the YouTube video during a discussion of an NPR story on his Facebook page. He said an NPR story on the protest-turned-riot "has been edited multiple times to say different things throughout the day," implying there was something underhanded at play. Of course, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how news reporting works — the situation began as a protest and turned into a historically unprecedented attack on the seat of U.S. government. So yes, news reports from essentially everywhere were updated as that story developed.) 

The first logical hurdle Wichmann fails to clear is that the video itself doesn’t remotely prove his assertion, which was made in the video description.

For one, Wichmann titles his video, "A meeting between DC police and rioters / Antifa beforehand." But a man who shared that video on Twitter told PolitiFact National the interaction happened after police started moving the crowd out of the building. 

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The video appears to show members of the pro-Trump group acting friendly with police. This is not the only video of its kind, as others circulated widely on social media showed officers allowing the group past barriers. It’s part of a law enforcement response that has been highly criticized and led to the resignation of the U.S. Capitol Police chief.

But a poor response from police is a far cry from proving the protesters themselves are not who they purport to be.

The clip used by Wichmann itself is a second-hand version of a livestream from online personality Tim Gionet, known by the nickname Baked Alaska, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist. The original stream — taken while Gionet stormed the Capitol — has been removed, as it and others are now being used to help identify the people who participated.

But Wichmann takes a ridiculous logical leap in interpreting one apparently friendly interaction with police as proof the people in the Capitol weren’t actually Trump supporters.

Especially when a mountain of evidence says otherwise.

What we know about the Capitol assaulters

The mob that broke windows inside and outside the Capitol and violently pushed past police moved to the building after a rally earlier that morning where Trump spoke to the group.

Here are a few of the many reasons the antifa claims don’t hold water.

Paxton’s antifa claim cited two sources: a screenshot of a tweet by right-wing journalist Paul Sperry and a screenshot of a Washington Times article with the headline, "Facial recognition firm claims Antifa infiltrated Trump protesters who stormed Capitol."  

The tweet, claiming a busload of "antifa thugs" had been dropped off at the Capitol, has since been deleted and remains completely unsubstantiated. The newspaper has since retracted the report, and the company it cited as a source, XRVision, has said its software identified two members of a Neo-Nazi organization and a Q-Anon supporter, not members of antifa.

Meanwhile, many individuals seen in news and social media footage have been identified, and have lengthy public histories of backing Trump, QAnon and other far-right causes. 

That includes the bare-chested man with face paint and horns, identified by the Arizona Republic as Jake Angeli, "a QAnon supporter who has been a fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies over the past year." And Richard Barnett, who was pictured with his feet on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is a Trump supporter and gun rights advocate who posted recently he was prepared for a violent death.

A growing number of people have lost their jobs or been arrested after being identified by law enforcement and social media sleuths. We know the group outside the Capitol included several Republican state legislators, including newly-elected West Virginia lawmaker Derrick Evans, who shared a livestream video in which he charged through a door in the interior of the Capitol building. He was criminally charged Jan. 8.

An array of other online claims have asserted the Capitol assault was a "false flag" operation -- a supposed covert operation designed to deflect blame. PolitiFact rated those False, noting, "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."

And of course, Trump himself identified the mob as his own supporters in a video posted to Twitter amid the Capitol incident, where he asked them to disperse peacefully, adding, "We love you. You’re very special."

Our ruling

Wichmann said "the DC looting was staged" by antifa.

Wichmann presents no evidence to back this claim online or in response to our requests. This is a pure fiction that contradicts an array of easily accessible information.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Jonathan Wichmann YouTube channel, A meeting between DC police and rioters / Antifa beforehand, Jan. 8, 2020

Jonathan Wichmann, Facebook post, Jan. 8, 2020

PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: Did Capitol Police let mob of Trump supporters in?, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, Texas Attorney General advances antifa conspiracy theory after D.C. riot, Jan. 8, 2021

PolitiFact, Mo Brooks pushes baseless claim that antifa orchestrated Capitol riots, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, Face-painted man in horned fur cap at Capitol riot supports Trump and QAnon, not antifa, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, No, the storming of the Capitol wasn’t a false flag, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, There’s no proof antifa stormed the Capitol. The rumor spread quickly anyway, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, No, facial recognition didn’t confirm antifa infiltrated Trump supporters at the Capitol, Jan. 7, 2021

Insider, White nationalist Baked Alaska livestreamed himself from inside the US Capitol as he joined rioters, Jan. 6, 2021

Newsweek, Every Republican State Legislator Spotted At Rally Before Capitol Riot, Jan. 8, 2021

Arizona Republic, Longtime Arizona QAnon supporter in horned helmet joins storming of U.S. Capitol, Jan. 8, 2021

MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel, DC riot updates: Capitol rioters are being identified, arrested; Virginia lawmaker wants slain officer to lie in state, Jan. 8, 2021

The Verge, Online researchers scramble to identify Capitol raid participants, Jan. 7, 2021

CBS News, West Virginia lawmaker Derrick Evans faces federal charges in Capitol siege, Jan. 8, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Eric Litke

No, the Capitol insurrection was not staged by antifa

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