Avowed white supremacists and Holocaust deniers were among the Trump supporters who violently occupied the US Capitol Wednesday, with experts on far-right extremism calling the storming a jarring but natural product of years of violence and hateful rhetoric stoked by disinformation and conspiracy theories.
Members of far-right groups, including the violent Proud Boys, joined the crowds that formed in Washington to cheer on US President Donald Trump as he urged them to protest Congress’ counting of Electoral College votes confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Then they headed to the Capitol. Members of smaller white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups also were spotted in the crowds. Police were photographed stopping a man identified as a leading promoter of the QAnon conspiracy theory from storming the Senate floor.
Online forums popular with Trump supporters lit up with gleeful posts about the chaotic scenes broadcast from the Capitol. Thousands of messages on Parler, a right-wing alternative to Twitter, included the hashtag #civilwar or other variations of the term.
Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet, a neo-Nazi known for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, posted video that showed Trump supporters in “Make America Great Again” and “God Bless Trump” hats milling around and taking selfies with officers who calmly asked them to leave the premises. The Trump supporters talked among themselves, laughed, and told the officers and each other: “This is only the beginning.”
Neo-nazi loser Baked Alaska ejected from capitol building by swat team as coup attempt implodes pic.twitter.com/ndQhhdm28J
— Nathan Bernard (@nathanTbernard) January 6, 2021
The crowd of Trump supporters at the Capitol also included adherents of the “Groyper Army,” a loose network of white supremacists that includes “America First” podcaster Nick Fuentes.
Fuentes is a white supremacist ideologue who has questioned the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust and believes that Israel has a malicious influence on US policy. Fuentes, who wants to push mainstream conservatism toward white nationalism, was banned from YouTube last year for hate speech.
Another protester was seen sporting a “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirt.
If you’re storming a parliament with people wearing “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts, you know what side you’re on…
These are the faces of hatred and extremism. pic.twitter.com/VcQn6fv1gy
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) January 7, 2021
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the mob’s actions were “clearly consistent” with the conspiratorial rhetoric of QAnon, the baseless belief that Trump has been secretly fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring.
“QAnon has been calling on this kind of madness for years,” Greenblatt said.
Representatives of Facebook and Twitter said Wednesday that they were working to remove threats and calls for violence from their platforms.
But across both platforms, Trump supporters used the hashtag #StormTheCapitol to document the chaos with photos or video and praise the mob.
More than 1 million mentions of “civil war” and “storm the capitol” had appeared in Twitter posts by Wednesday night, according to an analysis by media intelligence firm Zignal Labs.
Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said he spotted members of other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups — the New Jersey European Heritage Association and Nationalist Social Club — among the pro-Trump crowds in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday. The storming of the Capitol is the “logical conclusion to extremism and hate going unchecked” during Trump’s presidency, Segal said.
“We had conspiracy theories animating people to action on the ground. We had the mainstream and the extreme narratives meld,” Segal said.
Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was arrested this week and ordered to stay out of Washington after he was accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church last month.
During a pre-election debate with Biden, Trump refused to criticize the Proud Boys, instead saying the group should “stand back and stand by.”
Greenblatt called on social media platforms to immediately suspend Trump’s accounts for violating their terms of service. Twitter later locked the president’s account, demanding that he remove tweets excusing violence and threatening “permanent suspension.”
“This is a dark day for democracy,” Greenblatt said. “I never would have imagined in my lifetime that we would be witnessing armed protesters storming the halls of Congress.”