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Justice Department: No evidence of antifa instigating Capitol riot

Justice Department: No evidence of antifa instigating Capitol riot
Capitol Riot
Donald Trump
Campaign 2020
Social media rumors swirled following last week’s melee
Emily Belz
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Internet rumors continued to swirl among supporters of President Donald Trump who were in disbelief about what happened in Washington, D.C., last week. On Jan. 6, mobs marched from a rally featuring Trump to the Capitol, where many pushed past Capitol Police and took over the seat of government for several hours. Five died in the mayhem, including a Capitol Police officer whom rioters hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. 

One theory that is circulating: Activists on the left, chiefly antifa (an abbreviation referring to “anti-fascist” left-wing groups), instigated the violence instead of Trump supporters. People including Trump-supporting attorney Lin Wood and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spread the idea on social media.

But a prosecutor with the Department of Justice, Ken Kohl, said in a call with reporters Friday that the agency had “no indication” that antifa had any role in the violence. An assistant FBI director said the same. Federal authorities have instead identified and charged several Republicans and longtime Trump rallygoers who in most cases broadcast their actions themselves.

Here are some of the people involved in the riots who some have claimed were left-wing activists:

Several photos of the riots featured Jacob Anthony Chansley, who also goes by the name Jake Angeli. He was shirtless, wearing face paint and a fur headpiece with horns. Chansley is a Trump supporter and famous figure in QAnon circles. He has appeared at many QAnon events and “Stop the Steal” rallies. Many social media accounts wrongly labeled him as a Black Lives Matter supporter. Federal agents arrested him Saturday on several charges.

Another photo made the social media rounds with a caption like, “Do these look like Trump supporters? Or leftist agitators disguised as Trump supporters?” The photo included Chansley and white nationalist Jason Tankersley, misidentified in several places as a member of Philly antifa. The man on the far left of the photo, also mistakenly identified as antifa, appears to be another longtime Trump supporter and white nationalist, Matthew Heimbach, who has a history of violence.

Photos and videos of the Capitol invasion show John Sullivan, who said he was there to videotape the attack and prove that antifa was not behind it. Sullivan founded a group called Insurgence USA this summer after the killing of George Floyd, and he captured on video the police shooting of Ashli Babbett inside the Capitol.

“How would you have a clear vision of this woman getting shot by this officer? ... This is what everyone needed to see,” he told Fox News. 

Trump has attracted supporters from outside the traditional Republican tent, so it’s possible that a Trump supporter could also back some left-leaning causes. Adherents to QAnon, an apocalyptic internet movement that includes both the left and right, believe Trump is a messianic figure who will oust the “deep state.” QAnon supporters love Trump, but they may also back a variety of other causes.

Here are some other Republicans who allegedly broke into the Capitol: 

A Republican state legislator from West Virginia, Derrick Evans, livestreamed himself breaking into the Capitol. Evans has been arrested and charged. On Saturday he resigned from the Legislature.

Richard Barnett, who took photos in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with his feet propped up on her desk, is a regular attendee of Republican rallies. Barnett has been arrested and charged. 

Lonnie Coffman, according to the Department of Justice, had 11 Molotov cocktails filled with “homemade napalm … ready to go” in his truck near the Capitol, as well as several firearms. Coffman’s family said he is a Trump supporter. Coffman has been arrested and charged. 

Josiah Colt, who climbed down the Senate gallery wall to sit in the Senate president’s chair, livestreamed the events on Jan. 6. He has gone to Trump rallies in the past where he said “if violence happens it’s going to happen.” In another post he said, “Now is the time to fight.” Colt has apologized but so far has not been arrested. 

Another iconic photo was of a man sitting in the Capitol wearing animal pelts with a looted police vest and shield. Aaron Mostofsky, son of a Brooklyn judge, went to the Trump rally because he believed the election was stolen, according to an interview with the New York Post.

The FBI is still seeking suspects.