These are some of the extremist groups responsible for the violence on Capitol Hill
TORONTO -- Warning: Details in this story may be disturbing to some
The mob of U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters who overran police and stormed Washington’s Capitol Hill included members of several well-known extremist and white-supremacist groups.
Federal authorities have begun to ingest thousands of hours of pictures and video of the mob violence in an effort to identify and potentially charge perpetrators.
Other organizations like investigative journalism heavyweight Bellingcat, also put out a call for civilians to save any and all livestreams, footage and pictures they find so that they can begin to “scrape” the material to piece together the sequence of events and identify extremists, like they did for the “Unite the Right” rally in August of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The violence did not come as a surprise to Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre for Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.
“I think I was [only] surprised that it took that long for something like this to happen. A lot of us had anticipated that we would see violence immediately following the election, especially if he [Donald Trump] lost,” Perry said in a phone interview with CTV News.ca Friday.
Perry said she agrees that there has been a “mainstreaming of hate,” in recent years, and that the attack on the Capitol was a perfect example of it.
“That's an indication, I think, of how deeply embedded this has become in American politics in particular. But it certainly has become much more mainstream, not just in the political context, but in the media and popular discourse as well,” Perry said.
Canada has not escaped the rise in extreme views either.
“If we look at even Canadian public opinion polls, you know, we're seeing quite a dramatic increase in attitudes around immigration, around Muslims, around legitimacy of government,” she said.
On the ground
PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina Lindsay Ayling was on the ground during the violence at the Capitol Wednesday, documenting the extremist hate groups she saw in attendance.
“Originally I was hoping to go to a counter-protest, because I have been worried about alt-right, white supremacist groups for a while now,” Ayling told CTV News.ca in a phone interview Friday.
Ayling says she and her group of other anti-fascist counter-protesters were cut off by Trump supporters on their way to the Capitol, so “the best thing” they could do was “document and see what was happening.”
Ayling detailed what she saw in a Twitter thread and told CTV News.ca the entire experience was “surreal to be a part of and also deeply disturbing.”
Several militia groups wearing body armour and large weapons, white nationalist flags and paraphernalia, as well as overt Nazi symbols are just some of what Ayling saw that day.
CTV News.ca has identified some of the extremist groups Ayling and others saw taking part in the violence by reviewing news footage, social media posts, livestreams and other submitted media.
Here is a quick rundownof some of the groups seen at the Capitol:
QAnon and conspirary theorists
Some of the most visible and heavily represented among the violent mob were QAnon supporters and other conspiracy theorist adherents.
QAnon is the conspiracy belief in a “deep-state” plot to undermine President Donald Trump, and has been linked to several damaging online rumours accusing people of being a part of pedophile, child and sex-trafficking ring.
QAnon believe an online presence – known as “Q” that posts mostly on 8kun’s (formerly 8chan) forum pages – is an intelligence operative dropping secret missions and clues hidden in the subtext of their writing. Identifiable through their QAnon merchandise, including slogans on signs and flags, QAnon supporters were seen at the Capitol by Ayling, as well as highly visible in news coverage reviewed by CTV News.ca
One of the most easily-identifiable people in the Capitol attack was Jake Angeli of Arizona, who is known as the “QAnon shaman.” Sporting face paint, a furry horned hat and several Norse mythology tattoos (whose symbols have been co-opted by the far-right and white supremacist circles) – Angeli is wanted by the D.C. Police as a “person of interest,” in the aftermath. Despite giving many interviews to local, state and national media, being identified in local reports and having his own Wikipedia page, the D.C. Police leave him unnamed in their request for information.
But QAnon has “morphed quite considerably and I think what we consider QAnon now is not QAnon when it first emerged four years ago,” Perry said.
“It just became sort of a flash point for a whole array of other conspiracies to sort of be hooked onto the QAnon around, you know, the Democratic Party, around COVID, around the BLM and Antifa in the role that they played or were thought to play or are thought to play in disrupting American politics and especially Trump's agenda… It really has become the flash point for a whole array of conspiracies intended to fit whatever the crisis of the moment is,” Perry explained.
Other conspiracy theorists – especially supporters of Alex Jones’ “Infowars” – were spotted in the crowd documented in Ayling’s Twitter thread.
Jones is a continual perpetuator of unfounded conspiracies on “Infowars”, most notably that the 2012 mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut – where 20 children and six teachers died, plus the gunman – was a hoax.
Started by Canadian and former VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are a far-right organization that prides itself on “neo-chauvinism” and their core belief in “anti-political correctness.”
Although the group has denied any affiliation with far-right rhetoric in the past, Proud Boys were involved in the “Unite the Right” Charlottesville, Virginia rally and have been increasingly violent in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
“That’s a group that has really evolved from this…”frat boys on a lark” group into one of the most visible vocal and violent, misognystic, xenophobic groups in the movement, both in the U.S. and in Canada,” Perry said.
“There is a Proud Boys chapter in pretty much every large city across the country.”
Trump’s infamously told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer. Many of them were present at Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, seen clearly in footage and on social media sporting Proud Boy colours, patches, flags and apparel affiliated with the group.
“Trump has been the catalyst for that sort of mass radicalization. He knew that the Proud Boys and other extreme fascist groups were going to be there because the Boys have been organising multiple rallies for Trump in the U.S. since he lost the election,” Ayling said.
Amongst several armed and body-armoured rioters that day were those sporting patches or apparel with the acronym FAFO, which stands for “F*** around and find out,” a slogan affiliated with the Proud Boys.
“3 per cent” and “11 per cent”
Three percenters, also known as "11%ers," "3%ers," “threepers” and other variations thereof are a North American group of self-styled “patriots.”
Their name and concept comes from the “inaccurate historical claim that only three per cent of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
They are fiercely anti-government, pro-gun and see themselves as on a quest to rid America of “tyranny.” They also tend to align themselves with white-nationalist and far-right movements.
"Three percenters" are part of a network of broader anti-government militia movements, and are not centralized. Some are part of militias, some forms of non-paramilitary groups or online networks.
“I think the worrying thing about groups like these three percenters and especially the [patriot] term that they've taken and the form that they take in the Canadian context is sort of the unholy triumvirate. They're heavily armed, and they're trained to use those arms. They're trained in military strategy. Then you add in the xenophobia, whether it's anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim or whatever the case may be. So you've got those three pieces coming together in what is for me, a very dangerous combination,” Perry said.
“The militia movement is a right-wing anti-government extremist movement that arose in 1993-94. Its core belief centred on the idea that the federal government is collaborating with a shadowy globalist and socialist conspiracy (often referred to as the “New World Order”) in order to strip Americans of their rights and freedoms, starting with their right to bear arms, so that Americans can be made slaves to the New World Order and its agenda,” the ADL says.
Ayling documented "Three percenters" at the Capitol in her Twitter thread, and they are visible in other published photos. Her story is corroborated by other news organizationsthat were on site, like The Washington Post.
Similar to the “3%ers,” the Boogaloo Boys, sometimes spelled as “Bois” are a loosely affiliated milita-style group that is convinced there will be, and appears to want, a second civil war in the United States.
They are anti-government, pro-gun and often align with far-right and white nationalist movements.
“They're best understood as accelerationists where the intent is to, as the name implies, accelerate the coming of the inevitable and hoped for civil war. And what that looks like depends on the particular cluster or even individual,” Perry said.
Usually distinguishable by their patches and Hawaiian shirts, Boogaloo Boys were a threatening presence at many Black Lives Matter protests in the summer, several were arrested and with one member arrested as a suspect in the shooting deaths of two officers in California.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson from Texas tweeted about potential violence at the hands of the Boogaloo Boys and Proud boys prior to Wednesday’s attack.
People wearing Boogaloo patches and those heard expressing support for the movement were seen in footage from the Capitol verified by Storyful, a news-verification agency.
The Oath Keepers
The Oath Keepers is another anti-government, right-wing fringe organization that is a part of the broader “patriot” movement. Many are affiliated with militias and their belief in the “New World Order” threatening Americans, per an ADL report.
They have received increasing media coverage and study after activities after showing up in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after the police-shooting death of Michael Brown.
The Oath Keepers have notably focused their recruiting efforts on members of the police and military.
Ayling documented Oath Keepers present at the Capitol in her Twitter thread. Her story is corroborated by photos of logos and flags in the crowd.
The Nationalist Social Club, known as NSC, or NSC-131 is a neo-Nazi group with chapters around America.
“NSC members consider themselves soldiers fighting a war against a hostile, Jewish-controlled system that is deliberately plotting the extinction of the white race,” according to the ADL.
NSC-131 claims members from other extremist groups like The Base, Patriot Front and Aryan Strike Force.
NSC-131 posted on social media that they were present at the Capitol.
Others among the riot crowd
Many of the Trump supporters who stormed Capitol Hill were sporting a variety of extremist messages and paraphernalia, but may not have claimed membership of specific groups. They include:
- A man seen wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt in the background of U.K. news organization ITV’s coverage.
- Several men were seen in photos wearing shirts and sweaters emblazoned with “6MWE” which stands for “6 million weren’t enough” in reference to the systematic extermination of Jewish people during the Nazi regime.
- KKK flags, and two flags sporting the “logo” of “Kekistan,” an alt-right meme and dogwhistle that got its start on forum site 4chan and is meant to resemble the a Nazi flag, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), can be seen in Ayling's Twitter feed.
- Several Confederacy flags, patches and shirts were seen in photos from the Capitol, along with the red and yellow flag of the old South Vietnam regime and VDARE- like paraphernalia – an American website that is anti-immigration and affiliated with white supremacist, white nationalist and the alt-right – were also seen in footage reviewed by CTV News.ca
- “Thin Blue Line” flags and patches, meant to symbolize support for the police, but have been linked by some critics to anti-Black, and anti-BLM rhetoric, were also seen in footage and photos at the Capitol.
Reflections of violence
“We saw on the sixth the result of what ignoring fascists is,” Ayling said. “When they attacked [the Capitol] and made the news it’s because their targets were powerful, but they were a problem before then. If you ignore fascists one day, they'll only continue to grow.”
It is a sentiment that Perry echoes, and says it’s “not just about Trump.”
“It’s about so may other things,” she said. “Why do they support Trump? We have to keep asking that. It’s not just because he’s charismatic to them, it’s because he tells them what they want to hear.”
“The fact that he’s continuously galvanized such a diverse collective of problematic ideologies is really disturbing.”
Edited by Kieron Lang and Sonja Puzic