Chansley, 33, of Phoenix was one of the most distinctive individuals roaming the Capitol Wednesday: Shirtless and tattooed, wearing face paint and sporting a headdress made of coyote skin and buffalo horns (not bearskin, as alleged by authorities), he was photographed flexing near the vice president’s chair in the Senate.
Carrying a bullhorn and a flag-draped spear as he joined a mob of people who forced their way into the building, Chansley said in an hour-long, often rambling interview on Friday that he danced, sang and prayed there, drumming on the floor with his pole “to reclaim our nation.” He denied committing any violent acts.
Chansley said he called the FBI himself — which the agency confirmed in court papers — to acknowledge that he was the person in photographs of the riot. He spoke as he was driving back to Arizona, and he said he was not afraid of arrest.
“I trust in God and I know that I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “And even if I was arrested, wasn’t Gandhi arrested a lot? Wasn’t Martin Luther King Jr. arrested a lot? Wasn’t Jesus arrested? I put my trust in God, not the government.”
Chansley supports the baseless claim that there was widespread fraud in the presidential election. He said he traveled to Washington to strike a blow against what he called the “deep state.” He rejected the idea that his actions could be construed as rioting or insurrection.
“I believe personally the Founders would have done what it is we did on [Wednesday],” Chansley said, arguing that a double standard has been applied to Black Lives Matter protests last year that saw acts of violence among some of the demonstrations.
“BLM used molotov cocktails to set fire to places,” he alleged. “Casualties on either side break my heart. Violence is really unnecessary.”
Chansley said he had spent much of his life around Phoenix, following a spiritual path that led him from Catholicism to a mix of pagan and New Age-like religious beliefs. His shaman’s clothing reflected that, he said. The fur is that of a coyote, an animal that some Native American traditions have long regarded as a trickster.
“That’s why I wear the skin . . . because you cannot pull the wool over the eyes of an Angeli,” he said.
He is also heavily tattooed with Nordic insignia that Rolling Stone reported as having been adopted by far-right white nationalists.
Chansley was reluctant to divulge much about his personal life or his family, saying his mother and others have already been subjected to intense media attention and doxing.
He said he took courses at Glendale Community College in religion, philosophy and psychology, as well as ceramics. He also described working in a group home for troubled youths for a time — which could not be immediately verified — before setting out on a path as an actor, artist and public activist.
Chansley had a channel on YouTube that has been deleted but still posts videos as YellowstoneWolfAZ on Rumble, which has been described as a conservative alternative to YouTube. The site says he has posted 23 videos and has about 2,200 followers.
He wrote two books: “Will & Power: Inside the Living Library (Volume 1)” under the pen name “Loan Wolf.” He also wrote “One Mind at a Time: A Deep State of Illusion,” using the name Jacob Angeli, saying that’s the name he prefers because he rejects his father’s name. He would not go into his reasons.
Last February, Chansley, clad in his shaman’s clothing, appeared at a Trump rally carrying a sign that read “Q sent me” — referring to an online culture that traffics in conspiracy theories.
“You all know who Q is?” he yelled, according a report in the Arizona Republic. Local news also reported that he joined protests outside election offices in Phoenix while votes were being tabulated in the November presidential election.
In his interview Friday, Chansley described a world run by dark, unaccountable forces and wove together historical facts with hoary conspiracy theories that have been repeatedly debunked. It was a worldview that drew on the United States’ welcoming former Nazis to its rocket program, which would ultimately jump-start its space program, known as Operation Paperclip, and the country’s illicit experiments on brainwashing using psychoactive drugs. At one point, he quoted at length from President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 speech to members of the press on the dangers of the worldwide and clandestine threat posed by communist forces. But Chansley also drew those bits of fact into unproven and fantastic territory.
“You didn’t know that when you watch television, when you listen to the radio, there are very specific frequencies that are inaudible that actually affect the brain waves of your brain?” he said. “This has been going on for quite some time.”
Chansley also went into the Bilderberg conspiracy, the allegation that global elites are running the world, and other unproven or occult theories, including allegations of secret rings of child abusers and satanic worship. He viewed the Masons’ imprint on the design of Washington’s landscape as arranged along “ley lines” — the supposedly ancient practice of aligning landmarks — in ways that accentuate the Earth’s magnetic field. As he marched to the Capitol with fellow Trump supporters along these, he said felt the special intensity that comes from alignment that put him in tune with supernatural forces.
“What we did on Jan. 6 in many ways was an evolution in consciousness, because as we marched down the street along these ley lines, shouting ‘USA’ or shouting things like ‘freedom’ . . . we were actually affecting the quantum realm,” Chansley said.
Chansley has been charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. He is in custody pending a hearing on Monday.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.