Only small protests materialized outside statehouses nationwide on Sunday after authorities had braced for violence, boarding up windows, deploying National Guard troops and preemptively declaring states of emergency in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
With officials on high alert days away from President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, U.S. defense officials say the federal government is conducting insider threat screening on the 25,000 National Guard troops who have begun flowing into the nation’s capital to secure the inauguration, as concerns intensify about extremism in the ranks.
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Armed demonstrators showed up to capitol buildings in Austin; Columbus, Ohio; Lansing, Mich.; Phoenix; and Salem, Ore. But the gatherings were uneventful, with some drawing fewer than a dozen people.
Several cities saw armed but peaceful demonstrators, some identifying themselves as part of the fringe anti-government “boogaloo” movement.
A 22-year-old Virginia man whose Facebook page features a photo from the storming of the U.S. Capitol was arrested near the Capitol complex Sunday, amid a strict lockdown in that area and much of downtown Washington. D.C. police said the man was carrying three high-capacity magazines, 37 rounds of unregistered ammunition and a Glock 22 firearm.
Federal prosecutors have charged a Kentucky man suspected of smashing the glass in a door leading to the House Speaker’s Lobby during the U.S. Capitol breach, moments before and in the same location where rioter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot.
A Pennsylvania woman has been charged in the Jan. 6 raid of the U.S. Capitol and named by the FBI in connection with the possible theft of a hard drive or computer from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Riley June Williams was charged Sunday after her mother told police in Harrisburg, Pa., that she had packed a bag and fled without disclosing her whereabouts, FBI Special Agent John Lund said in a court affidavit.
The agent said a former romantic partner of Williams, identified only as W1 in court filings, told the FBI that friends of Williams played a video of her stealing the drive or computer from Pelosi’s office, and that Williams “intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.”
According to the witness, however, the plan fell through for unknown reasons, and the matter remains under investigation, the FBI said.
Williams can be seen in a YouTube video, taken from inside the Capitol, wearing a green T-shirt and brown trench coat with a zebra-print bag, directing rioters toward Pelosi’s office, the FBI said. She was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct in the Capitol.
The FBI agent said police in Harrisburg confirmed with Williams’s father, of Camp Hill, Pa., that the pair drove to Washington for the Jan. 6 demonstration and back, but did not stay together during the event. Williams’s mother told police that she recognized her daughter in the video footage inside the Capitol and that her daughter had taken a sudden interest in President Trump’s politics and “far-right message boards.”
Since the riot, Williams has changed her phone number, the agent said, and deleted her social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Telegram and Parler.
FBI screens U.S. troops for possible insider threats ahead of inauguration
U.S. defense officials say the federal government is conducting insider threat screening on the 25,000 National Guard troops who have begun flowing into the nation’s capital to secure the inauguration, as concerns intensify about extremism in the ranks.
The extra precaution comes after a number of the pro-Trump rioters involved in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 turned out to have military ties, raising questions about extremist sentiment within the armed forces. Dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington as the riot unfolded, jeopardizing lawmakers and leaving five people dead.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive preparations, said the Army is working with the FBI to vet all service members supporting the inauguration. The Army maintains awareness of threats but doesn’t collect domestic intelligence itself, the official said. It wasn’t immediately clear how extensive the FBI vetting of the military personnel would be.
A heavy-metal guitarist and the alleged leader of a Colorado paramilitary training group have been charged with allegedly taking part in the riot at the Capitol last week, as the FBI ratchets up its investigation into the role extremist groups played in storming the building.
Jon Schaffer, an Indiana musician, turned himself into the FBI on Sunday afternoon, officials said. On Jan. 6, Schaffer was photographed inside the Capitol, wearing a hat that said “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.” Schaffer founded Iced Earth, a heavy-metal band, and music fans quickly recognized him as the FBI circulated “Wanted” posters with his face on them.
Schaffer was charged with six counts, including engaging in an act of physical violence. Authorities said Schaffer was among the rioters who targeted U.S. Capitol Police with bear spray.
Also charged in a court filing made public Sunday was Robert Gieswein, 24, of Cripple Creek, Colo. Court papers say that he is affiliated with an Oath Keepers-related extremist group called the Three Percenters and that Gieswein “assaulted federal officers outside the Capitol; observed and encouraged other rioters as they broke a window of the Capitol building; entered the building through that broken window; and then charged through the Capitol building.”
Abraham Lincoln rose from his chair and walked to the speaker’s table on the East Portico of the Capitol. He pulled his cut-and-paste address from the breast pocket of his coat, and slowly put on his metal-rimmed glasses.
As he stood bareheaded, a throng of 30,000 people spread before him — the largest inauguration crowd the city had ever seen, and one that included many African Americans, who were legally banned from the grounds unless on “menial” duty.
But below the platform, the Army had deployed artillery. Snipers watched from rooftops and windows, and Lincoln had been guarded by infantry and cavalry on his carriage ride through the streets to the Capitol.
Many people wanted him dead.
“There goes that Illinois ape, the cursed Abolitionist,” a woman in crowd was heard to say. “But he will never come back alive.”
A Washington nonprofit group sued Apple in federal court Sunday, demanding that it remove Telegram, a chat and social media app, from its app store for failing to crack down on violent, extremist conversation in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The suit amounts to a pressure tactic to get Apple to act against Telegram as it already has against Parler, a social media site that swelled with calls for violence and insurrection ahead of the Capitol siege, according to researchers. Apple and Google both have booted Parler from their app stores because of its lax moderation policies, and Amazon Web Services withdrew support as well, disabling Parler last week, on the same grounds. Telegram offers both closed, private chat rooms and public groups that anyone with the app can join.
Filing the suit was the Coalition for a Safer Web, a nonpartisan group that advocates for technologies and policies to remove extremist content from social media, and the coalition’s president, Marc Ginsberg, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco. They complained about Telegram’s role in hosting white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other hateful content, and argued in the lawsuit that such content puts Telegram in violation of Apple’s terms of service for its app store.
The dramatic move by big technology firms to evict tens of thousands of users from their social media accounts because of concerns over violence is posing a challenge for law enforcement, which has lost a valuable resource to monitor the growing threat.
In the days following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by an insurrectionist mob, Twitter suspended more than 70,000 accounts, Facebook purged an undisclosed number, and Amazon Web Services booted Parler — one of the more popular platforms among far-right domestic extremists — entirely offline.
The FBI has warned about the potential for violence through Wednesday’s inauguration in capitals across the country, saying that domestic violent extremists “pose the most likely threat . . . particularly those who believe the incoming administration is illegitimate.”
The troops were in formation. The residents were told to stay home. The heart of Washington was a fortress of fences, concrete barriers and security checkpoints. But on Sunday, the planned and promoted “armed march” on the nation’s capital never materialized.
There were no gathered crowds, large or small, and authorities reported just one arrest of an armed man carrying a handgun and ammunition near barricades surrounding the Capitol building just after midnight.
The quiet Sunday brought little relief to a city on edge from an attack on the Capitol. Each day leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden comes with fear of additional violence and ever more security.
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly Capitol riot were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show.
The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies.
The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.
Organizing warm-up events is not the same thing as plotting to invade the Capitol. But before the rallies, some used extreme rhetoric, including references to the American Revolution, and made false claims about the election to rouse supporters to challenge Biden’s victory.
The number of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot continued to climb Sunday, as U.S. Capitol Police arrested Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in Otero County, N.M., who heads a group called Cowboys for Trump and has spoken openly about his involvement in the storming of the Capitol.
Images from a Facebook video Griffin posted, and news coverage, show that he was within the restricted area of the Capitol that day, the FBI said in an affidavit. In a video posted to the Cowboys for Trump Facebook page, Griffin said he had “climbed up on the top of the Capitol building and … had a first-row seat.”
He also raised the specter of a future gun rights rally at the Capitol, saying there would be “blood running out of that building” and promising, “We will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.”
Griffin said last week that he planned to bring multiple guns with him to D.C. to protest Joe Biden’s inauguration and make a stand for gun rights.
In several cities, media outnumbered small crowds of protesters
As numerous cities across the country braced for potentially violent protests on Sunday, journalists flocked to state capitols anticipating a hectic, news-filled day.
But by Sunday afternoon, Washington Post reporters on the ground in several cities found small crowds of mostly journalists — reporters, photographers, and TV crews from local and national news outlets — outnumbering an even smaller number of demonstrators.
In Denver, about 30 photographers and reporters mobbed three lonely protesters outside the Capitol. One had a message scrawled on it in black marker sayinf “IMPEACH BOEBERT,” referring to the newly elected Republican House representative from Colorado who has gained notoriety for her efforts to carry her Glock in the U.S. Capitol.
Meanwhile, other journalists chatted among themselves and were seen bumping elbows and peering at cellphones under a cloudy sky as passersby gawked at them.
In Harrisburg, Pa., only a handful of protesters came out in the afternoon, including a man carrying a bullhorn who called Biden a racist.
A vendor of pro-Trump merchandise was sorely disappointed at finding no crowds of potential customers and instead encountering a phalanx of about 75 reporters and photographers gathered at different points to talk to people.
In Salem, Ore., about 15 protesters gathered calmly in front of the closed state Capitol before noon on Sunday and talked to a group of about 30 journalists.
The quiet scene reassured some otherwise anxious residents.
“I am very happy to see more cameras than guns,” said Adam Lansky, a neighbor.
In Tallahassee, about 25 reporters milled around the state Capitol grounds, talking to police and a few wandering tourists. Most journalists had left for the day when five men in their late teens and early 20s showed up, some wearing military-style vests and the bright Hawaiian shirts associated with the anti-government boogaloo movement.
Similar scenes were seen in Salt Lake City, Sacramento and Phoenix.
Gerrit De Vynck, Christine Spolar, Jennifer Oldham, Faiz Siddiqui, Scott Wilson, Carissa Wolf and Matthew David LaPlante contributed to this report.
Statehouses across the country see only small protests, some armed
Sunday brought only small demonstrations to statehouses bracing for unrest.
Austin: By late afternoon, crowds had cleared out of the southern entrance to the Capitol after a peaceful day with two dozen or so armed demonstrators.
Boise, Idaho: A couple of protesters were on the Capitol steps.
Columbus, Ohio: About a dozen men with AK-47s, AR-15s and extra magazines — identifying themselves as “boogaloos,” a fringe anti-government movement — showed up at the heavily guarded Ohio Statehouse, saying they were there to “unify” the people. About 10 other armed men said they were there to stand up for people’s rights to free speech and bear arms.
Lansing, Mich: More than 50 men and a few women stood outside the metal security fencing at the steps of the Capitol shortly after noon. Timothy Teagan described it as a march for unity.
Olympia, Wa.: A 66-year-old man named John Hess approached the Capitol wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat and a handmade sign that read, “Stop the Steal. Joe Biden Traitor! Liar! Thief!”
Phoenix: By the afternoon, fewer than a dozen demonstrators were spread around the park and pavement outside the Capitol. Most appeared to be in their 50s or 60s, and a few wore Trump paraphernalia or carried guns.
Sacramento: On one side of the Capitol, a demonstrator stood with an American flag in hand and wearing a mask that read “E pluribus unum.”
Salem, Ore.: About 15 protesters, including men wearing symbols of the boogaloo movement, gathered in front of the closed and mostly quiet Capitol before noon.
Salt Lake City: About 10 boogaloo protesters were met by hundreds of soldiers and state troopers stationed on the perimeter of the Capitol.
Tallahassee: Five anti-government protesters showed up in the afternoon. Three wore military-style vests and one waved the flag of the boogaloo movement. One of the men, who gave his name as Jose Gutierrez, said he was carrying a concealed weapon.
Abigail Hauslohner, Carissa Wolf, Jay Greene, Faiz Siddiqui, Eva Ruth Moravec, Matthew David LaPlante, Gerrit De Vynck,Rachel Lerman, Peter Whoriskey and Kayla Ruble contributed to this report.
Kentucky man accused of smashing Capitol window with Trump flagpole
Federal prosecutors have charged a Kentucky man who they believe smashed a glass window in a door leading to the House Speaker’s Lobby during the breach of the U.S. Capitol, moments before and in the same location where rioter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot, court filings show.
An FBI charging affidavit alleges that Chad Barrett Jones, of Mount Washington, Ky., was the man shown in video standing to Babbitt’s left on Jan. 6, wearing a red-hooded jacket and gray skullcap and striking the lobby door’s glass panels as a mob chanted, “Break it down!” and “Let’s f-----g go!”
Jones allegedly used the pole of a Trump flag to break the window, the affidavit says.
Seconds later, Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran from southern California, was fatally shot by a police officer as she attempted to move through the broken window into the lobby, an inner sanctum within the Capitol leading to the House floor.
Maine Capitol Police chief under fire for social media posts
By Murray Carpenter
AUGUSTA, Maine — The head of the police force charged with protecting the Maine State House has apologized for social media posts espousing beliefs similar to those of the rioters who overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In one post, Maine Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin questioned the results of the presidential election, writing on Facebook that he had “zero confidence in the reported results.” He also linked to posts with far-right conspiracy theories, according to a story Friday by the alternative news website Mainer. Just after the election, Gauvin said he was switching to Parler, a social media platform popular with the far right. He has since deleted the Facebook posts.
Gauvin has been chief since 2006 and oversees 12 officers. Among other duties, they are charged with enforcing a mask mandate in the capitol; Gauvin’s social media posts mocked the use of masks to help prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
In a statement Friday, Gauvin sought to reassure state leaders and the public. “My focus has always been to be fair and support law enforcement professionals,” he said. “I certainly never intended for my social media account to ever bring my commitment to fair and professional law enforcement into question. I apologize for giving this impression and have removed my personal social media accounts.”
Gov. Janet Mills (D) and Commissioner of Public Safety Mike Sauschuck issued a joint statement Friday.
“Chief Gauvin’s apology is warranted, and he has assured us of his commitment to upholding his duties and responsibilities, regardless of any personal beliefs,” they said. “We are troubled and concerned by what we have read and have asked that the matter be reviewed through existing personnel process to determine whether any State policies were violated.”
As of noon Sunday, no protesters had arrived at the State House. Maine Capitol Police officers were standing guard outside.
Sen. Glenn “Chip” Curry (D) is still digesting the news about Gauvin’s posts. He called them deflating, especially because legislators had been discussing State House safety plans in recent weeks.
“It feels pretty personal,” Curry said late Sunday afternoon. “I want to know that we’re all on the same team, meaning supporting democracy and the safety of the staff and the legislators.”
This report has been updated.
Too few protesters make a bad day for business
By Christine Spolar
HARRISBURG, Pa. — John Mastriano drove three hours, from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, to sell a stack of long-sleeve black T-shirts touting the right to bear arms. He was sorely disappointed Sunday to find only a phalanx of reporters and photographers — a most unlikely cadre of customers — on the streets of the capital.
“I thought this was a rally for the Second Amendment,” Mastriano, who owns a silk-screen shop, groaned good-naturedly. “I brought about 100 shirts that I’m going to take home.”
Harrisburg was a wintry bit of political tranquility, with nearly no one but dogwalkers passing by and reporters with cameras awaiting a supposed noon rally for defeated President Trump. Another T-shirt vendor on the scene, who would give his name only as Eddie, hoisted a stack of “Biden is Not My President” shirts to show to the media and quickly dumped them back in his trunk.
“Everything they do to [Trump], they twist his words around,” said Eddie, who had driven from Philadelphia. Mastriano, a fellow supporter of the president from Penn Hills, Pa., was more reflective about the way things were ending for the president’s administration and the havoc rioters wreaked at the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m a Trump guy. But do I believe in what the insurgents did? Not at all,” he said. “Those are hallowed halls. You just can’t have people going there and breaking doors and breaking windows.”
Asked whether he blamed Trump, Mastriano said the president would have to face up to his role in what transpired on Jan. 6: “There’s consequences in life. He’s not above the law.”
Mastriano, 58, said he’d try his luck in Richmond on Monday, driving his merchandise to a gun rally planned there. Does he support that cause, too?
“I don’t own a gun,” he said. “I have three kids. I mean, I’m a Trump guy, but I do this to make a living.”
Updated February 23, 2021
Complete coverage: Pro-Trump mob storms Capitol building