Several pro-Trump protests are being organized on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. to express rejection of the November 2020 election results and to pressure Congress to not certify President-Elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. These events—which are being timed to coincide with a joint session of Congress where Electoral College votes will be formally counted—have been encouraged by President Trump in multiple inflammatory tweets urging his supporters to show up in D.C.
Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested on Monday, January 4, 2021 "on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn from a historic Black church in Washington," according to the New York Times. Tarrio, who was taken into custody shortly after arriving at Washington National airport, announced in late December that he planned to attend January's pro-Trump rallies in Washington. He is expected to be charged with a misdemeanor destruction of property charge for his alleged role in the December 12, 2020 arson, per news reports, and may be released as soon as Monday evening. Tarrio was also charged with two accounts of possession of high-capacity firearm magazines, which were allegedly discovered during the arrest, according to police and the Washington Post.
This collection of protests on January 6 will be the latest major pro-Trump events in D.C. since the election on November 3. Some of the previous protests, including at the November 14 “Million MAGA March” in DC and at rallies on December 12, featured extremists in attendance and violence. Those included incidents in which black churches were vandalized, individuals were assaulted and a degree of chaos ensued.
Various organizers have filed for at least four permits related to the January 6 rallies. These include a Capitol lawn “Stop the Steal/Wild Protest” organized by right-wing provocateur Ali Alexander, a “Trump March” at Freedom Plaza organized by Women for America First, a march led by James Epley of South Carolina from the Mall to the Capitol lawn and a “MAGA Wild” rally organized by the Eighty Percent Coalition, a reference to a November Gallup poll that found that more than 80% of Republicans do not trust the election results. A fifth event, “Operation Occupy the Capitol” is being promoted on social media, but it is not clear who is promoting the event.
Online chatter among potential attendees has increased in the days leading up to the rally. On “TheDonald.Win" forum, which replaced the banned subreddit “The Donald," users are sharing messages filled with violent rhetoric directed at a wide range of perceived enemies. In response to a user who wondered what happens if Congress ignores "evidence" that President Trump won the election, a user wrote, “Storm the capitol” and another added, “My truck is lifted and I have a plow on it right now. What do you need Mr. President?” In a separate thread about Congress, someone wrote, “Please, I dare them to defy the constitution while millions of patriots are anxiously waiting to hang them and gun them down in the streets like the tyrants they are.” Posters also expressed hostility towards law enforcement officers for their role in enforcing gun restrictions. Said one user in a thread about the restrictions, “Travel in packs and do not let them disarm someone without stacking bodies.”
Meanwhile, conspiracies about "antifa" activity at the D.C. rally are spreading on social media. These include accusations that antifa plans to infiltrate the ranks of the attendees, as well as allegations that antifa is preparing to intercept “Patriot” convoys heading to D.C. and plan to attack attendees at Metro stations. Photos of construction materials are also being shared, accompanied by the theory that antifa has planted them to use against rally attendees. The rising anti-police sentiment on the far right is also evident in the form of conspiracies alleging that police are "escorting" antifa into D.C.
A range of extremist individuals and groups have promoted the events, and some have announced that they will attend, including agitators such as white supremacist and Groyper Army leader Nicholas Fuentes and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who announced on January 2 that he will attend the "Rally to Save America" at noon on Tuesday, January 5, in Washington, D.C.'s Freedom Plaza. The event will also feature longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
On January 4, Fuentes posted a video on DLive tacitly urging followers to kill state legislators, before reversing himself. ""What can you and I do to state legislators?" he asked. "Besides kill them. Although, I'm not advising that, but I mean, what else are you going to do?"
Clashes between attendees and counter-protesters are possible, especially because the Proud Boys may attend the rallies.
Many extremist and mainstream Trump supporters are framing the rallies as a last stand to prevent Biden from being sworn in as the next President, and some chatter indicates that there is a desire to engage in radical and sometimes violent tactics to ensure that the election is not stolen from President Trump. For instance, “Stop the Steal/Wild Protest” organizer Ali Alexander warned in video posted on Twitter on December 27, 2020 that if President Trump tells people not to leave D.C. then he will not leave and he will have truckers sit on the bridges so that no one else can get out.
Oath Keepers announced on January 4 that they will have multiple volunteer "security" teams in Washington D.C. on January 5 and 6, 2021. The organization says their members, who may be "undercover" and not identifiable as Oath Keepers, will provide security for speakers, event attendees and Trump supporters as they walk across the city.
Elsewhere in chats frequented by militia members, several militia members insinuated that if nothing is done to prevent Biden’s election certification then violence might become necessary. As one user wrote, “The 6th is the line for me. It will change or it will begin.” Added another, “I am waiting until the 06 Jan date, then if Trump does nothing…I have a few LEO [law enforcement officer] friends who are going to do some major action and I am joining them.”
Protesters who can't travel to Washington have been encouraged to gather at smaller, pro-Trump rallies scheduled for January 5 and 6 in state capitals across the country. A few of the capitals mentioned: Indianapolis, Indiana, Sacramento, California, Lansing, Michigan and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where former U.S. Rep Matt Shea is scheduled to speak on January 5.
At this time, ADL is not aware of any credible threats of acts of violence that are slated to occur at the January 6 protests. However, if the past is any indication, the combination of an extremist presence at the rallies and the heated nature of the rhetoric suggests that violence is a possibility.
Below are examples of extremists and conspiracy theorists who are promoting the event:
- A member of the white supremacist and antisemitic New Jersey European Heritage Association, forwarded an article on Telegram about President Trump calling for a protest on January 6 with the caption: “Trump calls for protest in DC on Jan 6., says ‘be there, will be wild.’” Members of his group attended both previous events.
- Vincent James Foxx, who runs the media entity The Red Elephants which promotes conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic beliefs and white supremacist mantras, shared an advertisement for the protest on Parler.
- Members of America First and the groyper Army—including its leader, white supremacist Nicholas Fuentes—have said that they will be at the rally. Many groypers hold racist and antisemitic views. Fuentes, who holds white supremacist views (but claims not to be a white supremacist), positions the groypers as “Christian conservatives” who oppose immigration (undocumented and legal), globalism, gay and transgender rights, feminism and more. This, however, is a ploy to attract mainstream support and distract from the group’s fundamentally white supremacist ideology.
- On January 4, Enrique Tarrio, the head of the Proud Boys, was arrested shortly after arriving in Washington, D.C., after announcing via a December 29 Parler post that the Proud Boys would attend the January 6 protests. The Proud Boys are a nationalistic, Islamophobic, antisemitic, transphobic and misogynistic, and have repeatedly engaged in outright violence on numerous occasions. Members of the Proud Boys attended both previous rallies and each time they were linked with violence that occurred, including Tarrio himself destroying Black Lives Matter signs that were displayed at a black church. Tarrio noted that members of his group will not be wearing their normal black and gold polos, instead going “incognito” as they “spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.” Tarrio even suggested that the Proud Boys could wear all black, which is the typical attire for far left antifa members, in a move that could sow confusion and potentially escalate tension in the crowds. In response to one of Tarrio’s Parler posts one follower wrote, “No, you fight january 6th. If the congress confirm the pedophile, you break into the congress and kill the swamp creatures. Don’t forget your guns, this is not supposed to be a good for nothing peaceful protest, it’s the beginning of a revolution.”
- QAnon followers are also promoting attendance of the rallies, calling them “the last rally for freedom.” One QAnon promoter on Parler with 123k followers wrote, “To all Patriots in Washington D.C. Virginia, MD. Let us know where BLM and Antifa buses are, where they are staying, give us address and pictures. We will send to the Proudboys. We need to get them before they go out to the streets, this will make all the patriots safer at the march...” A follower responded: “Find these bastards everywhere you can! January 5th should be a day we WRECK black lives matter and antifa!! Calling all Patriots!!!! January 6th is the day we should destroy both of these terrorist groups with extreme prejudice!!!! BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!”
- On several websites frequented by members of the militia movement, supporters—including Three Percenters and Oath Keepers—have said that they are making plans to attend the D.C. rallies both on their own and in groups. Members of the militia movement garnered attention over the spring and summer for carrying firearms at public rallies (even at times when it was illegal to do so) and attempting to occupy a government building in Michigan. Although it is too early to say definitively what will happen, the consensus appears to be that these groups will adhere to D.C.’s strict laws limiting who can carry. However, some members already have talked about bringing baseball bats.
- On December 19, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones uploaded a video on Banned.Video, a video website owned by Jones, in which he said: “We are going to see 10 million people in Washington, D.C. on January 6 and I’m going to be there.” He added: “This election is in the process of being stolen, and President Trump is calling on We the People to take peaceful action in Washington, D.C. by the millions to let the establishment know their tyranny will not stand.” Jones previously had urged Trump to call for such action and if needed to occupy D.C. On December 30, a “trailer” for the rally, which includes an image of Kyle Rittenhouse, was uploaded to Banned.Video with the caption, “Call it Stop the Steal, Cancel the Coup or the 2nd American Revolution, you MUST be in Washington, D.C. on 1/6/21. The future of America depends on it.”
This post was updated on January 5, 2021