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Jan 6 Selection Committee Set to Focus on Thuggish Proud Boys and Oath Keepers
The next public hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol (Tuesday, July 12, 7am PDT) is expected to focus on the Proud Boys and other far-right groups.
The insurrectionists who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 had the same intention as other terrorist groups throughout history: to exert influence over the government by violently intimidating public officials and average citizens.
What set them apart from past upheavals was the charismatic leader inspiring them was the leader of the government itself.
As extremism expert Seamus Hughes noted, “There was absolutely a spectrum of support. In many ways, Jan. 6 was a bug light. It brought extremists from all areas. And they all came with different skill sets.”
What made them different from a random mob was the participation of groups with a specific intention and enough internal discipline to make the breach possible.
A New York Times investigation using court documents, text messages and videos revealed how teams of Proud Boys instigated critical breaches of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
After months of studying video footage of the attack and poring over internal communications by the Proud Boys, The Times has determined that members of the group maneuvered in a coordinated fashion that day in a way that was not previously known and in a manner that was unlike that of the hundreds of other rioters who stormed the building.
The analysis by The Times found a pattern in how the Proud Boys moved on the ground. Over and over, at key moments when the Capitol was breached, the group used the same set of tactics: identifying access points to the building, riling up other protesters and sometimes directly joining in the violence. When met with resistance, leaders of the group reassessed, and teams of Proud Boys targeted new entry points to the Capitol.
A terrific summary on militia groups by Rachel Kleinfeld, posted at Just Security delves into the relationships between Trump’s GOP and fringe groups:
Trump’s flirtation with militia groups began well before the events recounted on January 6. The Oath Keepers assembled to “protect” the polls after then-candidate Trump’s claims of potential fraud – in 2016. Multiple militia groups mobilized in response to Trump’s statements surrounding his inauguration and in response to his calls for more border security.
The Oath Keepers provided security to Trump campaign rallies and events in Texas, Minnesota, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere at regular intervals between 2016 and 2020.
After Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia refused to “find 11,780 votes,” he faced death threats that increased after Trump declared him an “enemy of the people.” The family went into hiding following multiple threats, including the appearance of out-of-state Oath Keepers at their home. Speaker Bowers testified that at least one of the crowd members protesting viciously at his home while his daughter lay inside, dying, wore Three Percenter insignia.
On Jan. 5, photographs showed Oath Keepers wearing “All access” passes on lanyards as they escorted Roger Stone to a speech he gave by the Supreme Court. And on January 6, militias not only breached the Capitol; Stone appeared to use Oath Keeper militia members as part of his personal security outfit that morning.
Former President Donald Trump is a master of a technique best described as stochastic terrorism—the incitement of random but utterly predictable acts of violence for political gain. He portrays himself as a victim and rallies his troops to fight for him, but does so in a way that never directly exposes his responsibility. Fight, he tells them, to protect his political standing. And that is what some of them did on January 6.
The tough talk coming from the MAGA crowd goes beyond the exercise of their First Amendment rights. Their Dear Leader has normalized the idea that threats and violence are all just part of the politics scene.
Why would a faction of Republicans still in power or running for office at the federal, state, and local level make common cause with violent criminals? Because violence and intimidation are already bolstering their power. Intimidation is being successfully used to silence opposition. Representative Gonzalez was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. After threats to his wife and young children, he decided not to run for reelection.
When 13 House Republicans voted to support greater funding for highways, bridges, and other infrastructure, their colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene publicized their phone numbers. A number admitted to receiving threats afterward, suggesting that a new tactic for “whipping” future votes and compelling Members of Congress to vote against the wishes of their districts had been discovered.
Indeed, Rep. Peter Meier (R-Mich.) wrote about a Republican colleague who voted against certifying the presidential election out of fear for his family’s safety. And Meijer also said some of his colleagues who voted to impeach Trump have since traveled with armed escorts “out of the fear for their safety,” altering their routines, and getting body armor, which he noted is a reimbursable purchase.
A Proud Boys leader told the Select Committee that then-President Trump’s comment to “Stand Back and Stand By” tripled their membership. Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers, says they expected pardons for those arrested at the January 6 insurrection and money for their legal defense.
From a statement by the Southern Poverty Law Center submitted to the January 6 Committee:
With their participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Proud Boys demonstrated that they are willing to take dramatic, violent action to disrupt the democratic process and impose their political will. The group’s belief that violence in pursuit of a more authoritarian form of government — in which men like the Proud Boys can curtail the speech of other groups through force — is sincerely held, as their actions have exhibited for nearly six years. In the aftermath of the insurrection, which has resulted in dozens of their members facing serious criminal charges, including conspiracy and other offenses, the Proud Boys did not back away from their beliefs, nor did they admit wrongdoing.
Instead, the group has rallied around its members and celebrated their actions on Jan. 6. Less than a week after the insurrection, one popular Proud Boys Telegram channel posted an image of lawmakers hiding in the Capitol while the building was under siege by insurrectionists. “This is the moment when those politicians and system shills who play with your lives and the lives of your children as if they’re moving pieces on a chessboard, this is the moment you made them feel the fear of the potential consequences of everything they’ve ever done,” the accompanying caption read
In recent months, the Proud Boys have rallied around anti-critical race theory, trans/gay acceptance and covid-masking protests, using mainstream causes to boost their membership.
Here in San Diego, the Proud Boys have a history of disruption going back to 2017, including a Impeach-Trump rally at the County Building, a Mayday march in Barrio Logan, and involvement in a so-called Patriot Rally in Pacific Beach.
At each of the events officers from the San Diego Police Department and or the San Diego Sheriff’s office failed to enforce the peace and seemed downright friendly with the right wing militants. This friendliness isn’t just a local phenomena; cops have been seen being friendly toward Proud Boys and their ilk nationwide.
Following the Pacific Beach rally, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan obtained indictments against 11 counter-demonstrators, claiming they were part of Antifa, you know, the non-existent organization the right likes to blame for any violence that occurs at their events.
These indictments are unique in that they are part of the only known prosecution nationally claiming Antifa affiliation.
From the Union-Tribune:
The indictment stems from a Jan. 9, 2021, “Patriot March” in Pacific Beach, which was organized in support of the outgoing president and came just three days after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. In response to the rally, dozens of black-clad anti-fascists showed up on the boardwalk and streets near Crystal Pier to counter protest.
Throughout that Saturday afternoon, violence broke out several times, often between the counterprotesters and the pro-Trump group — among which there were at least five people who’d been at the Capitol three days earlier, according to reporting by The Appeal — and between the counterprotesters and police officers.
Videos also showed members of the pro-Trump group attacking a barefoot man, a Trump supporter throwing a munition canister at the counterprotesters and anti-fascists attacking people, including pepper-spraying an apparent bystander walking his dog.
Summer’s 2018 campaign for the top prosecutor’s job came with an assist from the Deputy Sheriffs Association, which ran ads denounced as anti-Semitic that featured images of liberal billionaire George Soros.
Email me at WritetoDougPorter@gmail.com
Lead image by Chad Davis