WASHINGTON — Despite the claims of an Arizona state lawmaker with Pinal County ties, the vast majority of the mob that stormed the nation’s Capitol last week were Trump supporters, officials say.
They came from across America, summoned by President Donald Trump to march on Washington in support of his false claim that the November election was stolen and to stop the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden as the victor.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted a week before Christmas. “Be there, will be wild!”
The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the U.S. Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, off-duty police, members of the military and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals. Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder.
The Associated Press reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the Jan. 6 unrest or who, going maskless during the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.
The evidence gives lie to claims by right-wing pundits and Republican officials such as Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, and others that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.
“It is of course tragic that individuals positively identified as antifa infiltrators, entered the building by force, and that an Air Force veteran was shot and killed by a Capitol security officer, Finchem said in a statement Monday.
Finchem represents Legislative District 11, which includes Maricopa, Arizona City, Picacho, Red Rock and parts of Casa Grande and Eloy in Pinal County. He had attended the President’s rally but said he was about 500 yards away from the Capitol when the mob broke into the building.
“I was scheduled to visit with Congressmen from Arizona, and I was invited to speak at a permitted event scheduled for January 6th to be held on the steps of the Capitol. The event was planned to begin at 1:00 pm, coinciding with the joint session to hear objections from the states in controversy involving the Electoral College Electors,” Finchem said. “However, the President’s speech at the ellipse went long, so I was late to the Capitol grounds. I walked at the rear of the crowd that made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Finchem said that upon his arrival he was told by the event organizer that the speaking engagement was canceled. He said he stayed there for about 20 minutes, took a few photos and left the area.
“I did not learn of the Capitol penetration until shortly before 5:00 pm EST when I was about to record a podcast interview. I was told that individuals believed to be antifa had breached an area of the Capitol building that was out of my view, around the corner from where I was located,” Finchem said. “I have since been told by investigators, that through the use of facial recognition software, the antifa link was confirmed.”
Finchem did not identify the investigators, or the agency they were with, who allegedly told him of the antifa link.
Steven D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters that investigators had seen “no indication” antifa activists were disguised as Trump supporters in Wednesday’s riot.
The AP found that many of the rioters had taken to social media after the November election to retweet and parrot false claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen in a vast international conspiracy. Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president. During the riot, some livestreamed and posted photos of themselves at the Capitol. Afterwards, many bragged about what they had done.
As the mob smashed through doors and windows to invade the Capitol, a loud chant went up calling for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, the recent target of a Trump Twitter tirade for not subverting the Constitution and overturning the legitimate vote tally. Outside, a wooden scaffold had been erected on the National Mall, a rope noose dangling at the ready.
So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanor curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Jake Chansley, who calls himself the “QAnon Shaman” and has long been a fixture at Trump rallies, surrendered to the FBI field office in Phoenix on Saturday. News photos show him at the riot shirtless, with his face painted and wearing a fur hat with horns, carrying a U.S. flag attached to a wooden pole topped with a spear.
Chansley’s unusual headwear is visible in a Nov. 7 AP photo at a rally of Trump supporters protesting election results outside of the Maricopa County election center in Phoenix. In that photo, Chansley, who also has gone by the last name Angeli, held a sign that read, “HOLD THE LINE PATRIOTS GOD WINS.” He also expressed his support for the president in an interview with the AP that day.
The FBI identified Chansley by his distinctive tattoos, which include bricks circling his biceps in an apparent reference to Trump’s border wall. Chansley didn’t respond last week to messages seeking comment to one of his social media accounts.
A judge has scheduled a detention hearing Friday for Chansley, has been jailed on misdemeanor charges. He hasn’t yet entered a plea on charges of entering a restricted building without lawful authority as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
His court-appointed attorney, Gerald Williams, told the judge Monday that his client has been unable to eat since he was arrested Saturday. He said his client has a restricted diet, though it was unclear to Williams whether Chansley’s food issues were related to health concerns or religious reasons.
The judge ordered Williams to work with the U.S. Marshals Service to address the issue.
Williams didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment from The Associated Press.