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INVESTIGATION: Was Antifa Responsible For The Capitol Riot?

DCNF INVESTIGATES: Was Antifa Responsible For The Capitol Riot?

Andrew Kerr and Chuck Ross on January 14, 2021

  • Some commentators and elected officials have suggested that antifa was responsible for the Capitol riots on Jan. 6.
  • Only one person charged D.C. federal court so far in connection to the riot had apparent ties to antifa.
  • Six reporters with the Daily Caller and the Daily Caller News Foundation who covered the Capitol riot on the ground said the crowd descended into violence after mob mentality kicked in.

Some commentators and elected officials have suggested that antifa was responsible for the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Given antifa’s violent history and animosity toward President Donald Trump and Republicans, such a claim should not be dismissed without investigation.

To date — based on a thorough review of their online and social media presence as well as court records — only one person charged in D.C. federal court in connection to the riot has described themself as an “anti-fascist.” There’s no indication that the remaining individuals facing charges have any apparent ties to the far-left group.

Additionally, the Daily Caller and the Daily Caller News Foundation had a combined six reporters at the Capitol building during the riot, all of whom said the crowd and the participants did not seem to include a significant antifa presence. Most of those reporters spent the summer covering Black Lives Matter and antifa protests and riots.

Federal investigators are looking into whether there was an organized subsection of instigators at the Capitol riot that riled the crowd up into a frenzy, according to CNN. The FBI is examining evidence that indicates some participants at President Donald Trump’s rally outside the White House left early to retrieve weapons for use at the Capitol, CNN reported.

Caller Chief Video Editor Richie McGinniss, who was inside the Capitol building covering the riot, noted that there was a small subsection of the mob that came dressed in all black with masks that concealed their identity and weapons to commit vandalism.

But McGinniss, who covered numerous riots throughout the summer, said he could not positively identify the rioters at the Capitol with crowbars and bats as members of antifa. He noted that the leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group, wrote on Parler prior to the event that his group would be going into D.C. that day incognito.

“The Proud Boys will turn out in record numbers on Jan 6th but this time with a twist,” Enrique Tarrio wrote. “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.”

Tarrio also wrote that the Proud Boys may dress in all-black gear similar to antifa black bloc militants, according to USA Today.

FBI initially said no indication of antifa presence at Capitol riot

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, said at a press conference Tuesday that prosecutors have opened more than 170 investigative files related to the riots and have filed charges against more than 70 people.

The top FBI official in the Washington field office said Friday that investigators have not seen any evidence that antifa supporters took part in the riots.

“We have no indication of that, at this time,” Steven D’Antuono, the acting director heading the FBI’s field office, told reporters on a press call when asked if members of the far-left group took part in the siege.

One person charged Thursday identifies himself as anti-fascist. An FBI spokesperson told the DCNF that the bureau had no additional updates.

Not all of the criminal complaints released by prosecutors give details about the rioters’ political ideology. But of the remaining defendants whose political leanings are known, all appear to be conservatives. The DCNF was unable to find evidence that any others were affiliated with antifa or other radical liberal causes.

John Sullivan

John Sullivan of Utah is the only known left-wing activist who has been charged in D.C. federal court for participating in the Capitol riot. Sullivan, who founded the social justice group Insurgence USA and describes himself as “anti-fascist,” told a local news outlet he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 solely to document the event.

However, Sullivan was charged Wednesday for willfully joining the mob who forced their way into the Capitol.

Sullivan provided prosecutors with footage he captured at the riot in which he was heard saying “Let’s burn this shit down” as he approached the Capitol and “We gotta get this shit burned,” “it’s our house motherfuckers,” and “we are getting this shit,” as he was walking inside the Capitol.

Sullivan has previously been denounced and ostracized by left-wing protest groups in D.C. and Seattle as a “likely infiltrator/agent provocateur” prior to the Capitol riot. He’s also been accused of sabotaging BLM groups.

“No committed BLM activist would say or do this — and he isn’t one,” Grayzone reporter Max Blumenthal tweeted Wednesday about Sullivan encouraging violence during the Capitol riot.

Blumenthal added that Sullivan was “banished” from the Utah BLM scene during the Summer for allegedly causing chaos at rallies that led to mass arrests.

Sullivan was also pictured conversing with Utah Proud Boy leader Thad Cisneros outside a D.C. hotel the night after the Capitol riot, according to Blumenthal.

Derrick Evans

Derrick Evans, a former Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, was charged in the riots with illegally entering the Capitol. Evans, who live-streamed his participation in the Capitol breach, resigned from office on Saturday.

Bradley Rukstales

Bradley Rukstales was fired as CEO of the marketing firm Cogensia after he was charged in the riots with one count of illegally entering the Capitol and a count of violent entry or disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign and other Republican political committees, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Richard Barnett

Richard Barnett, a 60-year-old Arkansas native, was charged after he was photographed sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Barnett attended a “Stop the Steal” event in Bentonville in November, according to local news reports.

Barnett told a TV reporter for KNWA at the rally that he believed that the election was stolen from Trump due to widespread voter fraud.

Lonnie Coffman

Lonnie Coffman, an Alabama native, was charged with illegal firearms possession. Prosecutors also said that he had 11 Molotov cocktails. His ex-wife told a local newspaper that he was a supporter of the president.

Eric Munchel

Eric Gavalek Munchel, a Tennessee man photographed in the Capitol in military-style gear with zip ties, was arrested on Sunday in connection with the breach.

Now-deleted photographs on Munchel’s Facebook account indicate he is a Trump fan. Prosecutors released one undated photo of Munchel holding a shotgun and U.S. flag in front of a TV with Trump on in the background.

Photo of Eric Munchel (Justice Department)

Jacob Chansley

Jacob Chansley, an Arizona man who donned a viking hat and fur, is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory. He has been photographed at rallies in Arizona holding a “Q Sent Me” sign.

Chansley, who goes by the name Jake Angeli, was photographed in the Senate gallery shortly after the Capitol was evacuated.

Chansley also posted photos on Facebook with Rudy Giuliani, the Trump lawyer, during the Trump legal team’s challenge of election results in Arizona.

“WE WILL STOP THE STEAL,” he wrote in a caption to the Nov. 30 photo with Giuliani.

Cleveland Meredith

Cleveland Meredith was charged with making interstate threats over text messages he sent in which he threatened to put a bullet in Pelosi’s head. He was arrested in a Washington, D.C. hotel room with a cache of weapons.

According to a complaint filed against him, Meredith sent a text message, saying that he was, “Thinking about heading over to [Pelosi’s] speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.”

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson, a Florida resident, was spotted carrying Pelosi’s speaker lectern. Johnson, who was photographed wearing a Trump hat, is reportedly a Trump supporter.

A woman who went to church with Johnson told a local news station that he expressed support for Trump on Facebook and criticized left-wing protests held across the U.S. last year.

Terry Brown

Prosecutors also charged 69-year-old Terry Brown, who told a news outlet in Pennsylvania that he was at the Capitol because he was angry at the outcome of the election.

Douglas Sweet

The daughter of one man charged at the riots, Douglas Sweet, told BuzzFeed News that her father was a Trump supporter. She also said that he attended neo-Confederate rallies and was a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Sweet’s daughter provided BuzzFeed with a private message he wrote on Facebook after the Capitol incident, in which he said that “Our goal was to speak to the house and Senate about ‘stop the steal’ and infiltration by the Chinese Communist Party of our government.”

Nicholas Ochs

Nicholas Ochs, a member of the right-wing Proud Boys movement, was charged with illegally entering the Capitol. According to prosecutors, Ochs has said in interviews with the media that he is president of the Hawaii chapter of the Proud Boys and has “PROUD BOY” tattooed on his arm.

Ochs, who ran as a Republican for Hawaii state representative in 2020, also expressed support for Trump on Parler, the social media site popular with conservatives, according to prosecutors.

Jenny Cudd

Texas woman Jenny Cudd was arrested Tuesday for her involvement in the Capitol riot, according to CBS7.

Cudd, who has described herself as a “conservative die hard patriot,” posted a video of herself in the Capitol building saying “we did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door” and that somebody stole her gavel.

Ashli Babbit

Ashli Babbit, the 14-year Air Force veteran who was fatally shot in the Capitol building, was also a dedicated Trump supporter, according to her social media posts and people who knew her. Babbit died after she was shot by a Capitol police officer when she tried to enter a restricted area of the Capitol building.

Many claims of Antifa involvement at Capitol riot have been disproven

“Stop the Steal” attorney Lin Wood, among others, suggested that a man with a tattoo on his hand pictured in the Capitol building during the riot was a member of antifa.

That man, Will Watson of Alabama, rejected claims that the tattoo on his hand was the communist hammer and sickle. He said the tattoo is actually a symbol from the 2012 video game “Dishonored.”

“They wanna call me Antifa because I have a videogame tattoo on my hand and I was pleading for peaceful discourse,” Watson, who promoted Trump’s election fraud claims, said on Snapchat after the riot. “Let ’em say what they will. The fake news won’t win against the thousands of patriots who recorded today.”

Watson was arrested on Monday for violating his bond to attend the rally. He was previously charged in July for trafficking marijuana and LSD, according to the Opelika-Auburn News.

Wood and other social media users claimed that one individual pictured inside the Capitol during the riot was a member of antifa because his headshot was featured on the PhillyAntifa website.

PhillyAntifa did post images of individuals who were at the Capitol riot in 2018, however, the pictures were posted in an effort to identify the man as a white nationalist.

The Washington Times posted an article hours after the Capitol riot stating that facial recognition had identified members of antifa among the rioters.

However, the outlet later issued a correction to the article, saying that the facial recognition software “did not identify any Antifa members.” The updated article noted that the software “identified neo-Nazis and other extremists as participants” in the riot.

Field reporters recount what they saw at the Capitol Riot

The six Caller and DCNF reporters, all of whom covered antifa violence during riots in 2020, noted that the vast majority of the mob participants at the Capitol did not come prepared with the gear typically equipped by antifa black bloc militants, such as gas masks and shields.

“Trump just knows how to attract a crowd. There’s not a doubt in my mind that the majority of people there were Trump supporters,” Caller reporter Caitlyn McDuffee told the DCNF. “I doubt that there were antifa people there. You have to take into account that there were Trump people in the Capitol building, and that’s just a proven fact.”

And DCNF reporter Kaylee Greenlee said: “A lot of them were wearing Trump hats and American flags, but not as many gas masks, which is interesting because BLM and antifa always have at least respirators. This crowd was not prepared for the tear gas.”

McGinniss, the Caller’s chief video editor, said there was a small subsection of the mob on the scene with their identities concealed that appeared to be prepared to cause property damage.

“The people that were carrying crowbars and bats, they were masked up,” McGinniss said. “I didn’t really see people smashing things and committing acts of vandalism without being properly masked.”

“If you are trained antifa you’re probably going to be covered up pretty well,” McGinniss said. “The guys carrying the antifa flags know how to conceal their identity and know how to effectively use black bloc to kind of blend in.”

McGinniss said he could not positively identify the rioters at the Capitol with crowbars and bats as members of antifa based on their clothing alone. It’s especially difficult when considering that the Proud Boys, a group commonly referred to as street brawlers, planned to go into D.C. that day dressed like antifa black bloc militants.

“It’s very difficult for me to see people dressed in black and assume that they’re with one group or another,” McGinniss said.

McGinniss said maskless people wearing MAGA hats and other Trump gear began clashing with police once mob mentality kicked in.

“Once the anger of a crowd is elevated to a certain point, it’s a runaway train,” McGinniss said.

At least some Trump supporters in the crowd denounced acts of vandalism at the onset of the riot with loud boos and chants of “we don’t break shit,” and “fuck antifa,” according to Caller reporter Vincent Shkreli, who covered the event near one of the Capitol building’s entrances.

However, that same subsection of the crowd did not denounce similar acts of vandalism later in the day after word got around that a woman, later identified as Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit, had been fatally shot inside the capitol.

“The first two guys smashing the windows, Trump supporters kicked them out,” Shkreli said. “After they found out the woman was killed, that’s when the third guy started smashing the window and nobody stopped him, and then people started pulling out furniture from the inside.”

“After that girl got killed that’s when they started getting much more aggressive,” Shkreli said.

Caller reporter Lisa Bennatan said that the mob’s participants seemed to be true believers in Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“People were passionately screaming about the election. It’s hard to passionately scream about that stuff in specific detail about how you believe the election was fraudulent,” Bennatan said, adding that she doesn’t think such rhetoric would come from antifa militants trying to disguise themselves as Trump supporters.

“I really had no question at the time they were Trump supporters,” Bennatan said.

All but one of the 62 lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies alleging voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election have failed in court, according to USA Today.

The Trump campaign’s lone court victory came Nov. 12 when a Pennsylvania judge ordered the state not to count mail-in ballots that lacked proof of identification and were cured in the days following the election.

Have information about antifa’s presence at the Capitol riot? Email [email protected]

 

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Image: Composition from video shot by John Sullivan.

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