Active as retired police officers, a flower store owner, a former Olympic swimming champion, former elite soldiers, a Republican state legislator from West Virginia, real estate brokers, students, the unemployed, construction workers, housewives: Going through the list of more than 100 rioters already charged in the 6. January were present at the storming of the Capitol in Washington, no consistent picture emerges for investigators. Police say the attack will lead to hundreds more proceedings.
"Alongside martially clad militiamen, there were evangelicals, gun fanatics, anti-globalization activists, conspiracy sectarians, hard-core neo-Nazis, Democrat haters and seemingly ordinary Donald Trump supporters standing shoulder-to-shoulder," says a Washington investigator familiar with the background.
Storming the Capitol: Who is behind it?
Was there a strategic ordering hand behind the Capitol storm? Or, a motley random mob formed after coordinating calls on the Internet and Trump's speech that was perceived as inflammatory? No one knows reliably yet.
But: In the evaluation of more than 150.000 tips, the majority of them cell phone video sequences of participants and onlookers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified dozens of representatives of groups with a reputation in this field. They often differ only gradually in ideology, are often armed to the teeth, and ideologically rally behind one person: Donald Trump.
Homeland Security warns of right-wing domestic terrorism
The groups represent what the Department of Homeland Security says is a "rapidly growing" threat of domestic terrorism coming from the right that will keep America busy for some time to come.
In addition to the Oath Keepers, founded in 2009, which founder Stewart Rhodes says is the largest anti-government militia with more than 20,000 members, the group includes the Three Percenters, the Boogaloo Bois, Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys, who have become even more famous for their benevolent Trump remarks.
All of them far-right, nationalist, racist, militant, male-dominated groups. They see themselves as a kind of shadow army of Trump in the fight against everything that seems leftist and Democratic. They deliberately seek the confrontation with Antifa. And they feel legitimized and empowered by the outgoing president.
Ex-military: Trump just needs to shout
Representative of this is the statement of the top "oath keeper" Rhodes. Trump "just has to shout – and we'll be there," the ex-military man had said before and after the November election. Rhodes calls the incoming leaders, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, "illegitimate, communist China puppets". He threatened a "bloody civil war" if they get into office.
Trump wants nothing to do with violent supporters
Several representatives of these groups are considered highly dangerous by the FBI because they have "radicalized" in the recent past, said one security official.
Example: Robert Gieswein. The 24-year-old from Cripple Creek, Colorado, runs the "Woodland Wild Dogs". This is a paramilitary group that showed up outside the Capitol in combat fatigues and helmets. Gieswein made a martial call in a video to "remove corrupt politicians like Biden and Kamala from office".
Far-right groups could gain further traction
Extremism experts from the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama expect the events at the Capitol to bring "further influx" to some 200 known far-right groups. "Some have now tasted blood." What that could do to a country with an estimated 400 million privately owned guns, it would be easy to imagine.
US election 2020 – All important news
Sensitive prison sentences, on the other hand, are likely to come to people like Robert Sandford and Peter Francis Stager. Retired Pennsylvania firefighter Sandford, convinced of Joe Biden's "election fraud," slammed fire extinguisher at police officers' heads. Stager was filmed beating a downed "cop" with a flagpole. In a video after the act, he pointed at the Capitol and yelled, "Death is the only cure for this building. Everyone in it is a traitor."
Some rioters expect to be pardoned by Trump
Meanwhile, people like Jacob Chansley practice trying to shift the burden of proof. The out-of-work actor, who gained dubious notoriety as a buffalo-horned, tattooed shaman in the Capitol, said he came to Washington solely at the behest of Donald Trump to track the "stolen" election. That's why his lawyer says he expects to be pardoned by the president, who leaves office tomorrow.
Jennifer Ryan made similar comments in front of a running television camera. The Dallas, Texas, real estate broker had come to Washington by private plane – "because my president called me". Doesn't see blame on herself, only duty to perform. Analysts expressed "shock at the sense of injustice".
Trump: my speech before Capitol storming was 'absolutely appropriate'
One facet that is causing concern is the apparent high level of participation by police and military in the storming. Ahsli Babbitt, the Californian shot by a "cop" while entering a secure area and a follower of QAnon conspiracy theories, was an Air Force pilot. Larry Brock, who was filmed in the Senate chamber wearing plastic handcuffs while searching for parliamentarians, also served in the Air Force.
Democrat defense politicians call for study of armed forces' potential vulnerability to extremism. As a precaution, all 25,000 National Guardsmen were screened for identification purposes to secure Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday. Pentagon apparently does not rule out disruptive maneuvers from within its own ranks.