A Small Group of Militants’ Outsize Role in insurrection

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ASPartOfMe
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22 Feb 2021, 9:35 am

New York Times

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As federal prosecutors unveil charges in the assault on the Capitol last month, they have repeatedly highlighted two militant groups — the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — as being the most organized, accusing them of planning their strategy ahead of time and in some cases helping escalate a rally into an attack.

The two organizations stand in contrast to a majority of the mob. Of the more than 230 people charged so far, only 31 are known to have ties to a militant extremist group. And at least 26 of those are affiliated with the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys.

The groups differ in their focus and tactics: The Oath Keepers are part of an anti-government militia movement that emphasizes military-style training, while the Proud Boys espouse an ideology of male and Western superiority, with members often expressing white-supremacist and anti-immigrant views. But the groups have been united in their allegiance to former President Donald J. Trump.

Conspiracy charges, among the most serious levied so far, indicate that members of these groups may have worked together and planned their activities, potentially in ways that made them more dangerous than other rioters. Federal prosecutors have said that some members used teamwork to help people escape arrest and to direct and provoke protesters to overwhelm police defenses.

Of the 22 people charged with conspiracy crimes by mid-February, 18 were known to have ties to one of those two groups.

Another likely factor in the groups’ activities: More than a third of the militants were also known to have military experience, a far higher proportion than in the crowd as a whole.

Although militants were a small part of the mob, their organizational tactics could have influenced others’ behavior and made the riot more violent, said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University. Some extremist far-right groups, particularly in Europe, have recently used larger protests as cover for more violent activities, she said.

Federal prosecutors have said members of the Oath Keepers militia group planned and organized their attack and “put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol.”

Ten people affiliated with the group have faced federal charges so far, and the F.B.I. has said it is seeking information about others seen on video wearing tactical gear and moving in formation with other members.

On Friday, the federal government announced conspiracy charges against six people prosecutors said were members of the group who stormed the Capitol in a military-style “stack.” Earlier, prosecutors had charged three other people they said conspired with those six.

According to court documents, Oath Keepers members discussed bringing “heavy weapons” to Washington after the election. Jessica Watkins, who described herself as leader of an Oath Keepers contingent called the Ohio State Regular Militia, said the group was “awaiting direction” after the election from Mr. Trump, then the president.

Other members said they planned to bring mace, gas masks, batons and armor to the Capitol but were not bringing guns because of local laws. Instead, they would have a “quick reaction force” with weapons several minutes away, according to court documents.

Of all the militant groups on the far right, the Proud Boys is perhaps the one most associated with Mr. Trump, and thus it is not surprising that it appears to have had a large role in the siege at the Capitol, which grew out of his false claims that he won re-election. At least 16 people with ties to the organization are facing federal charges in the attacks. That’s the most of any known entity.

As of mid-February, three separate groups of Proud Boys members faced conspiracy crime charges, with the government saying they worked together during different parts of the riot. In each of these groups, former military members played a prominent role, including in leading other members of the mob, prosecutors said.

“The Proud Boys believe the way you change a society is through its culture,” said William Braniff, a professor at the University of Maryland and director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. “They are less disciplined than militia groups but more emotive.”

“They are a group that will get in people’s face because they want to get attention, and they want to be provocative,” Mr. Braniff said.

On the day of the riots, Proud Boys leaders used megaphones to lead a group of at least 100 people from Mr. Trump’s speech to the Capitol, prosecutors said. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member, was among the first people to break into the Capitol building, using a stolen police riot shield to bust out a window and allow members of the mob to flood in, according to video footage and court documents.

Members of other far-right extremist groups, including the anti-government Three Percenters militia, as well as neo-Confederate and white supremacist entities, were also present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. So far, these people have not been charged with conspiracy crimes, and their numbers indicate they are unlikely to have had an organized role in the attack.

Of the 31 people with militant ties who have been charged so far, at least 11 had a military record.

“The traditional way of interrupting extremism is by infiltrating groups and interrupting plots,” Dr. Miller-Idriss said. “We see that with some organizations it is possible to do this. But in many cases, it is not.”


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goldfish21
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22 Feb 2021, 10:05 am

Maybe this is just a byproduct of what happens when a country doesn't give it's returning & retiring armed forces members access to proper mental healthcare?


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Fnord
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22 Feb 2021, 11:01 am

goldfish21 wrote:
Maybe this is just a byproduct of what happens when a country doesn't give it's returning & retiring armed forces members access to proper mental healthcare?
Could be.

It also points out that it takes only a few charismatic people to inspire lots of others to commit acts of violence.


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goldfish21
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22 Feb 2021, 11:07 am

Fnord wrote:
goldfish21 wrote:
Maybe this is just a byproduct of what happens when a country doesn't give it's returning & retiring armed forces members access to proper mental healthcare?
Could be.

It also points out that it takes only a few charismatic people to inspire lots of others to commit acts of violence.


It’s no coincidence that the USA has laws against inciting violence. Legislators have long since recognized that Pareto’s law applies to violent crowds; it’s always the vital few who stir the pot, not the trivial many who get caught up in the melee.


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cyberdad
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23 Feb 2021, 5:52 am

it's funny I pointed out as far back as 2019 that the oath-keepers seem to have an uncomfortably close relationship with the MAGA cheer squads at Trump rallies. They were often seen guarding trump supporters

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23 Feb 2021, 9:10 am

Never heard of the 3%.
Some of these groups sound scary, even not knowing what they did.


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goldfish21
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23 Feb 2021, 3:16 pm

^^&^ Possibly correlated to America's lack of funding for mental healthcare.


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Sylkat
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23 Feb 2021, 5:03 pm

Dear Goldfish 21,
I agree very strongly, especially with what you wrote regarding the lack of mental health care for returning military.
They are hurting and lost and broken, and no one is committed to helping and healing them.


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NightMuse
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23 Feb 2021, 5:30 pm

Militants=antifa and blm. Not Trump supporters.


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Fnord
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23 Feb 2021, 5:34 pm

NightMuse wrote:
Militants=antifa and blm. Not Trump supporters.
That implies that you believe Trump supporters can do no wrong, even when they storm the Capital building in an attempted coup that resulted in the deaths of 5 people.


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