WASHINGTON — A right-wing activist who spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 5 has now been charged with participating in the Capitol riot the following day.
Brandon Straka was arrested Monday in Nebraska on charges of impeding a law enforcement officer, entering a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress in connection with the storming of the Capitol building earlier this month.
Straka, a right-wing activist who’s amassed more than a half-million followers on Twitter, founded the #WalkAway social media campaign during the 2018 midterm elections. He describes himself on Twitter as a “former liberal” on a “mission to #RedPill humanity” – a reference to the Matrix series commonly used in conservative circles to describe actions to convert others to their cause.
According to a rally permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Straka was also a speaker at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Freedom Plaza on Jan. 5, and, the Department of Justice says, he claimed in now-private tweets that he was supposed to speak on Jan. 6 as well.
Straka is the first “Stop the Steal” speaker to be charged in connection with the Capitol riot, although the charges against him stem not from his actions at the rally, but later in the day at the Capitol building itself.
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In an affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last week, federal investigators say they received a tip with a YouTube video of Straka on the Capitol steps yelling to others in the crowd to “Take the shield!” from a Capitol Police officer. The affidavit notes that tear gas is then released in the area, and that the video does not show Straka entering the Capitol building.
According to the affidavit, Straka had posted tweets and videos to YouTube documenting his activities at the Capitol, but that those have since either been deleted or made private. However, tipsters provided screenshots of Straka’s tweets from Jan. 6, which allegedly include him writing:
- “I’m completely confused. For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!” & that if congress [sic] moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol – now everybody is virtue signaling their embarrassment that this happened.”
- “Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republican because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
- “Perhaps I missed the part where it was agreed this would be a revolution of ice cream cones & hair-braiding parties to take our government back from lying, cheating globally interested swamp parasites. My bad.”
According to the affidavit, the video of Straka’s speech on Jan. 5, which lasted about 5 minutes, also included multiple references to “patriots” and the “revolution.”
An initial hearing for Straka was scheduled in federal court on Tuesday.
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