The Capitol Police may have allowed almost any member of a crowd of pro-Trump rioters to enter, destroy, and exit the Capitol building unscathed, but Internet investigators and official investigators are determined to hold them accountable. The reckoning has already begun: several people have now been charged with riot-related crimes, and police officers promise more charges will come.
After insurgents fell through barriers around Capitol Hill, overwhelmed the police, rampaged through the Capitol, leaving dozens of injuries and five dead, arrests were relatively few and many people were allowed to walk out. Back then, the consequences were few – only about a dozen of the hundreds of invaders were arrested at the scene – but that is changing now. Law enforcement agencies and civilians alike are trying to identify those who participated. Because of the audacity of many members of the mob, there is ample evidence that is used to indict them of related crimes.
Many attendees willingly – and quite happily – posed for photos and videos on the spot, or boasted of their exploits on social media and verified livestream accounts during or shortly after the hand-to-hand combat, though many of their actions may well represent serious crimes. Apparently, believing they were doing nothing wrong or that law enforcement would not pursue them, Trump supporters appeared in front of cameras wearing different (and therefore easily recognizable) costumes and, in some cases, even ID cards.
A particularly concerned pro-Trump rioter was identified as the son of a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge. Aaron Mostofsky, who was photographed with several fur skins and a vest marked “Police” and carrying a police shield and a large stick, was hard to miss.
Tim Gionet, better known as the far-right white supremacist provocateur "Baked Alaska", even broadcast his walk through the Capitol (and attempt to call Trump on a desk phone) to thousands of followers on DLive, where he's a verified one Partner.
In short, those who stormed the Capitol did not leave social media breadcrumbs for law enforcement to follow them to their front door – they left loaves of bread.
Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were used to identify and arrest suspected rioters
Several suspected rioters were arrested in the days following the uprising and many more are likely to be arrested. The FBI calls for "tips and digital media on civil unrest and violence in the US Capitol and the Washington, DC area".
"Make no mistake: with our partners we will hold those who took part in yesterday's siege of the Capitol to account," said FBI director Christopher Wray in a statement on Thursday.
The DC Metropolitan Police Department has also sought “assistance in identifying persons of interest responsible for illegal immigration violations” and posted a series of photos on its website showing rioters inside and around the Capitol. A person who brazenly held up parts of the door of house spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi is suspected of "receiving stolen property", while another person, who was photographed sitting behind a desk and talking on the phone, was suspected of "illegally entering" is suspected.
Social media detectives, who rightly don't have the best reputation for tracking down potential criminals, are also involved. An Instagram account devoted to identifying and naming members of the mob garnered more than 230,000 followers before going private. A cybersecurity and disinformation researcher gained tens of thousands of followers during his crowdsourcing search for two people wearing military equipment in the Senate Chamber.
One of the most notorious rioters of the moment was Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, who wears a distinctive outfit for pro-Trump rallies. Win McNamee / Getty Images
Two of the most prominent members of the mob – the shirtless man with complexion and a furry horn hat and the man who put his feet on a desk in Pelosi's office – were identified by the press in their hometowns within hours of the uprising and in the days that followed arrested.
The horned man is Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli from Arizona, a QAnon supporter and right-wing rally player whose costume made him easily recognizable. As of Saturday, he had been arrested and charged with knowingly entering or staying there for limited reasons, forcible entry and disorderly behavior for Capitol reasons. According to the complaint, a Capitol Police agent used tweeted photos of a man who appeared to be in the Chansley Capitol building and compared them to photos of Chansley, who shared the same "distinctive clothing and tattoo" on his own Facebook page and YouTube account " wore.
Richard "Bigo" Barnett of Arkansas was quickly identified by his local news network as the man in Pelosi's office. He later bragged to the New York Times that his time in Pelosi's office included "scratching his balls" and taking an envelope that he said he paid a quarter for. Barnett was arrested Friday and charged with entering or staying for lockdown reasons, forcible entry or disorderly behavior on the Capitol grounds, and theft of public property.
Richard "Bigo" Barnett, who boasted of walking into Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi's office and removing an envelope from a desk, is now in police custody. Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images
"The shocking picture of Mr. Barnett with his boots on a desk in the President's office on Wednesday was off-putting," Jeffrey Rosen, acting US attorney general, said in a statement.
The subject of another popular photo, a happy and waving bearded man walking across the Capitol with the lectern, was identified by the Bradenton Herald as Florida man Adam Johnson (not "Via Getty"). Johnson was arrested Friday and hit on the same three charges as Barnett. The complaint against Johnson relates to photos posted on his own Facebook account that appear to show him in the Capitol, taken from a newspaper article about the uprising. Also, someone who has a mutual friend with Johnson called the FBI to report that he was the man in the photo with the lectern.
Adam Johnson carries the House of Representatives lectern through the Capitol rotunda. This photo is part of the evidence cited against him in the criminal complaint. Win McNamee / Getty Images
And Doug Jensen – an Iowa man who was photographed wearing a QAnon branded shirt and who appears to be indicting one of the Capitol groups – was arrested Friday on charges of entering, or staying, on restricted, violent, messy grounds conduct for reasons of the Capitol, disrupting the normal operation of the government, performing, demonstrating, or picketing a Capitol building, and obstruction of law enforcement. Jensen posted photos of himself on his Facebook page wearing the same shirt on the day of the uprising.
Also arrested Friday was Derrick Evans, a newly sworn Republican member of the House of Delegates in West Virginia who streamed himself live as he entered the Capitol building. (He has since deleted the footage and now claims he was there as an independent member of the media.)
Evans has been charged with knowingly entering or staying there for limited reasons and for forcing into the Capitol and behaving in disorder. An FBI agent stated in the complaint against Evans that the agent matched the voice on the live stream with one of Evans' campaign videos and that the agent could review the deleted live stream because it was republished on Reddit. Evans' Facebook page also had several public posts promoting his presence at the January 6th event in the weeks and days leading up to the event.
Evans is now a former delegate. He resigned on Saturday, less than a month after he was sworn in.
The Capitol rioters pause in the midst of the rebellion to take a breather and admire the artwork. Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images
It remains to be seen whether other sedentary or prospective lawmakers from Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia who boast of their presence in DC will suffer the same fate. (Unlike Evans, as the Associated Press points out, it is not clear whether they were part of the mob that entered the Capitol or just attended the previous rally.)
Bold was Joe Visconti from Connecticut, who ran for governor in 2014 and tweeted a picture of himself on the Capitol stairs next to graffiti that said "our house". He has made sure that local posts are flagged to make them aware of his actions, but has since removed that post.
Rioters who have documented their actions on social media also lose their jobs
There was also a professional impact. Several participants have already been fired or resigned from their jobs.
Jensen was fired from his job at an Iowa bricklayer company that announced the company the same day he was arrested.
Goosehead Insurance confirmed on Twitter Thursday that Paul Davis, associate general counsel for the company, was no longer employed there. Davis posted a video on Instagram from outside the Capitol complaining about tear gas.
Another man was photographed with a clearly visible identity card. He is no longer an employee. Navistar Direct Marketing fired him "after reviewing photographic evidence". Another of the man's former employer, Glory Donuts, identified him as Nicholas Rodean on his Instagram account.
Libby Andrews, a Chicago real estate agent, was fired from her job Thursday after her real estate employer @properties said he received "tremendous reach" for Andrews, "who confirmed on social media that she participated in". storm the capitol. "Andrews told the Chicago Tribune that she didn't realize she was doing something wrong and that" it was like a party. "
And former Pennsylvania MP Rick Saccone, who boasted on Facebook of "storming the capital" and "our avant-garde broke the barricades", has retired from St. Vincent College.
Law enforcement agencies have enjoyed using social media and internet activity in the past to track down suspected criminals, as they do now. Social media feeds and live streams led to the arrest of protesters in Portland last July. The FBI used Instagram, LinkedIn, Etsy and Poshmark to identify a Philadelphia woman who allegedly set fire to two police cars during George Floyd's protests last June.
If law enforcement had previously paid so much attention to social media, where Trump fans openly organized themselves prior to the Capitol Hill uprising, they would likely have been better prepared for the riots that followed – and possibly have prevented all of them.
Relatively few of the Capitol's alleged rioters have been arrested so far, considering how many people were there and how well their actions were documented. But with so many people motivated to hold them accountable – and many of the suspected rioters already identified – that number is expected to continue to grow. Acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, said Thursday afternoon that 55 cases had been filed related to the riot.
"This is just the beginning," he said.
Update, Jan. 9, 6 p.m. ET: Updated to add the recent arrests of several suspected rioters.
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