U.S. prosecutors on Friday announced the arrest of six other people associated with far-right militia Oath Keepers in the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Five of the six were among a group of militia members who used military-style stack formation to break through the Capitol, along with hundreds of others, in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the electoral victory of the Trump’s rival Joe Biden, prosecutors said.
In a statement, the District of Columbia’s U.S. Attorneys Office said rioters donned paramilitary gear, climbed the central steps on the east side of the U.S. Capitol, broke down the door at the top and stormed the building.
They marched on Capitol Hill after attending a Trump rally near the White House where Trump urged his supporters to fight like hell.
FILE – President Donald Trump holds a rally to challenge Congress’ certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results in Washington, January 6, 2021.
The riot left five people dead, including a police officer, dozens more seriously injured and extensive damage to the Capitol complex, which houses Congress. The attack sparked a nationwide manhunt by the FBI for the hundreds of people who were captured in video footage ransacking the Capitol and attacking police and others.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump for inciting an insurgency, but the Senate acquitted him on February 13 after a five-day trial.
Those associated with the Oath Keepers who are to be arrested this week were Kelly Meggs, 52, self-proclaimed leader of the group’s Florida section, as well as three members: Connie Meggs, 59, Graydon Young, 54, and Laura Steele, 52 years.
Two others, Ohio couple Sandra Ruth Parker, 62, and Bennie Alvin Parker, 70, were arrested Thursday. Although the two men were not described in court documents as members of the Oath Keepers, prosecutors said they traveled to Washington with two militia members to take part in the riot. Bennie Parker is the only one of six arrested this week not part of the stack lineup that violated the Capitol.
Three other oath-keepers Jessica Watkins, 38, Donovan Crowl, 50, and Thomas Caldwell, 65, were arrested last month by the FBI for conspiracy.
All nine are being prosecuted as a group and face multiple criminal charges, including one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. If found guilty, they risk years or even decades in prison.
The arrests marked the culmination of a week-long effort by the FBI to arrest the eight to 10 people he said had participated in the Oath Keepers stack. But the number of Oathkeepers who participated in the insurgency remains uncertain. In a message sent to the Zello audio app during the riot, Watkins claimed there were 30 to 40 of us, according to court documents.
The Oath Keepers are a loosely organized collection of far-right activists, some of whom are associated with militias. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the United States today.
File – Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia known as Oath Keepers, center, speaks at a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017.
Who are the keepers of the oath?
Founded in 2019 by U.S. Army veteran Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers recruit current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders. Rhodes, who reportedly encouraged its members and affiliates to travel to Washington last month to support the fight against Trump in what he falsely called a Democratic coup and was reportedly seen outside Capitol during the riot, was not arrested.
In court documents, prosecutors said some members of the Oath Keepers began coordinating and planning the Jan.6 attack as early as November and used social media, text messaging and messaging apps to recruit the biggest possible number of supporters to travel to Washington, DC, to support the Jan.6 operation.
In early November, Watkins, the self-proclaimed commander of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a subset of the Oath Guards she created in 2019, invited new recruits to practice paramilitary combat tactics. . On November 9, she texted a recruit, I need you to fight fit by the inauguration.
This alleged planning by the Oath Keepers and other groups was cited by Trump’s lawyers during his impeachment trial as saying the riot happened regardless of Trump’s urges. But court documents show that, as right-wing activists planned, they did so in response to Trump’s call to arms.
FILE – Supporters of President Donald Trump clash with police at the western entrance to the Capitol during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.
Promised “ wild ” event
In late December, after Trump urged his staunch supporters to come to Washington for a rally he predicted was wild, Florida chapter chief Kelly Meggs wrote in a Facebook post, Trump said it was going to be wild! !!! !!! It’s gonna be wild !!!!!!! He wants us to make him WILD that’s what he says. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to drive him wild !!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen, we’re heading to DC to pack your shit !!
And in a December 9 text message to another oath keeper, Watkins wrote: We are planning to go to DC on January 6. Trump wants all able-bodied patriots to come.
Prosecutors said Watkins provided logistical assistance for the attack on the Capitol, finding a hotel for several Oath Keepers to stay around Jan.6. And for days afterwards, she thought she would escape the FBI manhunt, texting Bennie Parker on January 9. wouldn’t mind them coming after us.
But on January 17, the FBI arrested her and two of her comrades.
About 700 people took part in the January 6 riot. A recent analysis of the more than 200 Capitol Hill rioters arrested so far found that only 10% had links to militias and other far-right groups; the rest were normal Trump supporters angry at the defeat of the former presidents.
In addition to the Oath Keepers, several members of another militia known as the Three Percenters and more than a dozen members of the Proud Boys, a pro-Trump far-right group, have been arrested.
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