By David M. Greenwald
While there have been conspiracy theories to the contrary, most of the people arrested in conjunction with the Capitol Riots from January 6 were in fact devoted Trumpists—while for the most part the people associated with rioting and looting over the summer were people not connected with the protests but instead were people simply were taking advantage of the moment.
Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican House minority leader, actually believed he needed to try to quash the belief that anti-fascist agitators were to blame for the violence inflicted by the group that stormed the Capitol.
“Some say the riots were caused by Antifa,” McCarthy told his colleagues. “There is absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say so.”
Last year I interviewed Tampa area prosecutor Andrew Warren and we discussed, among other thing, protests and riots. Like most prosecutors, Warren saw a clear distinction between the people protesting and the people looting and rioting.
He told me, “Most of the people that we see committing crimes in connection with the protests are not protesters. They are people who are trying to take advantage of the situation.”
The big question in both cases is how do we know? The answer is that we can look at the court filings and it is pretty evident.
In the case of the protests over the summer—we have been tracking a number of looting cases in the Sacramento Courts, for example. Most of the defendants have a profile similar to many defendants in the criminal legal system.
Earlier this week, for example, Kathryn Wood and Lauren Smith covered the cases of Eric Azikiwe. He was caught looting at the local Best Buy on June 6—right during the heart of the protests. Witnesses saw subjects run out of the store grabbing electronics—including one of the people detailed with the defendant.
Testimony indicated that “the defendant was found outside of the store with the items in his hand which were confirmed to belong to the store.” Azikiwe also had another case that day—second degree-burglary. It was pretty clear from the evidence, this was not a protester who got carried away but rather a run-of-the-mill person involved in petty crime and participating in a crime of opportunity.
The DOJ, probably hoping to head off conspiracy theories, has been the most transparent I have ever seen prosecution be—posting all of the arrestees, even some of the evidence, on the DOJ website: https://www.justice.gov/opa/investigations-regarding-violence-capitol.
Take Daniel Adams, who is facing charges for assaulting a federal officer; obstructing law enforcement engaged in official duties incident to civil disorder; knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
On the DOJ’s statement, they show social media interaction between Adams and others. They have identified numerous photos of Adams on the scene, with a very strong case toward his specific overt acts as well as his ties to pro-Trump groups.
Another example. On January 14, the DOJ put out a press release about the arrest of Kevin Seefried and Hunter Seefried, charged today in federal court in the District of Columbia in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.
Kevin Seefried and Hunter Seefried each were charged by complaint with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, one count of violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds among other things.
Kevin Seefried was the individual who was photographed with the Confederate flag in the Capitol.
He told law enforcement that “he had traveled with his family from Delaware to the District of Columbia to hear President Trump speak and that he and Hunter Seefried participated in a march from the White House to the Capitol led by an individual with a bull horn.”
Moreover, in the statement of probable cause, the investigating officer noted that he “reviewed video footage posted to Twitter which shows Hunter Seefried punching out glass in a window in the Capitol complex after people adjacent to him in the crowd broke it with a wooden 2 x 4. Kevin Seefried confirmed to law enforcement agents that Hunter Seefried was asked by an individual unknown to the Seefrieds to assist with clearing the window because Hunter Seefried was wearing gloves.”
This is just one example. But it is clear from the complaint here that the Seefrieds were Trumpists, participating in the riots. In the case out of Sacramento, on the other hand, it was not an activist who got out of control, but rather a criminal act of opportunity.
One exception to this is the case of John Sullivan—who has been held up by many Trump supporters as evidence of the existence of leftist organizers on the Capitol Grounds. But if that is true, he appears from the filing to be an exception and, as publications like the Intercept reports, it is unclear what John Sullivan was actually trying to do during the siege.
John Sullivan filmed the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbit during the storming of the Capitol.
He was detained in Utah on charges of interfering with efforts by the police to stop the riot. Sullivan tried to play this off as if he was simply a journalist or an observer.
But in the complaint, Sullivan can be heard saying, “Why don’t we go in there?” Later, when the person is shot, Sullivan can be heard telling one of the law enforcement officers guarding the doors, as seen in the screenshot below, “We want you to go home. I’m recording and there’s so many people and they’re going to push their way up here. Bro, I’ve seen people out there get hurt. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
As some of our commenters have noted as well, Sullivan’s presence has been a focal point of right-wing media feeding the conspiracy that pro-Trump rioters were actually left-wing anti-fascist agitators.
As the Intercept points out in a detailed article, “Although Sullivan began describing himself as a journalist in the aftermath of the raid, when his footage of the shooting was licensed by major news organizations, including the Washington Post and MSNBC, his raw footage captured him repeatedly expressing what sounded like genuine enthusiasm for the success of the riot. At one point highlighted in the federal complaint, Sullivan could even be heard trying to convince police officers to abandon their posts and let the rioters seize the House chamber.”
The Intercept continues, “Watching Sullivan’s footage makes it obvious that he was not leading but following the rioters as they made their way through police lines into the Capitol, eventually reaching the barricaded door of the Speaker’s Lobby, steps from the House chamber, where Babbitt was shot.”
They note: “Sullivan’s excited, real-time commentary on events as they unfolded, also raised questions from skeptics on the left about whether Sullivan was just posing as a right-winger to film the riot or really harbors right-wing sympathies.”
They point out: “Sullivan is a curious figure who is treated with suspicion or outright hostility by a number of left-wing organizers associated with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism in Utah, California, and the Pacific Northwest.”
Months before Sullivan embedded himself in the right-wing mob that broke into Congress, a racial justice activist in Portland warned members of the movement “to not associate with Activist John,” calling him “deceptive, dangerous and daft.”
The Intercept continues, saying that “according to the activist, who goes by the name Gila on Twitter, Sullivan was responsible for dozens of protesters getting arrested at a Portland demonstration in September because he argued with local activists about the route to take ‘and led people down a dark street straight into a police kettle. Even though he had zero knowledge of the area he insisted people follow him and disregarded warnings from security.’ Sullivan, the activist wrote, ‘is living in a fantasy land.’”
Still, looking through the rest of the filings, you see people who were clearly committed Trumpists, many of them Proud Boys and followers of the QAnon Movement. That is demonstrated by extensive work by investigators showing social media posts as well as photos and video from January 6.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: