When ten thousand supporters of US President Donald Trump besieged the Capitol in Washington DC on Wednesday and hundreds stormed the building, the protagonists caused worldwide horror. However, the events in the capital were to be expected. For months a coalition of various right wing movements has been drumming on the uprising and civil war.
On Wednesday, the US Congress had planned to formally confirm the election results of the presidential election. Election results which, according to Trump and his conspiracy theorists, are fraudulent and pose a threat to the republic. For those who think so, the siege of Congress was not just a possibility, but a necessity.
On December 20, Trump tweeted that it would be “statistically impossible” for him to lose the 2020 presidential election. Even then, he invited his followers to a “big protest in DC” on January 6th. “Be there,” wrote Trump, “it’s going to be wild!”
In the past few weeks, an online group called “Donald’s Army” had published plans to encourage supporters of the president to form marches from every part of the country to “break into” the capital, Washington DC. Maps showed the times and places where the participants would meet and a plan for how to lay siege to the Capitol. In the meantime, people have been noticed in other online forums with a similarly violent rhetoric. For example, when a user on TheDonald asked “What happens if Congress disregards the evidence (of the election rigging)?”, The answer was: “Then you have to storm the Capitol!” And a user wrote on the Telegram Messenger Already on New Year’s Eve in the nationwide group “Ten Million to Washington” that he was looking for a “beautiful group of at least five to ten strong men” with whom he would storm the Capitol.
This user describes himself as a member of the right-wing extremist group “The Proud Boys”. This already played a decisive role during two violent right-wing mobilizations in November and December in Washington. The leader of the “Proud Boys”, Enrique Tarrio, had announced that he would bring more than 1,000 members of the group to protests against the alleged electoral fraud in the capital. Immediately after his arrival in Washington, Tarrio was arrested for illegal possession of weapons and expelled from the city.
During the storming of the Capitol, he posted a picture on the social media platform »Parler«, which is close to the president, which shows apparently frightened congressmen. They hide behind chairs. As a caption, Tarrio wrote: “If the people fear the government, there is tyranny … If the government fears the people … there is freedom.” Another member of the right-wing extremist “Proud Boys”, Jeremy Bertino, sees the events now a missed opportunity as participants were reluctant to “take them to the next level”.
Among the rioters in the Capitol were other well-known right-wing extremists such as the neo-Nazi Tim Gionet, also known as “Baked Alaska”. Gionet was a speaker at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. After the demonstration, there was a fatal attack on counter-demonstrators. During the storming of the Capitol, Gionet streamed continuously.
Still, some right-wing conspiracy theorists are obsessed with the idea that anti-fascists stormed the building. Trump supporter Sidney Powell tweeted that it was “AntifaTerrorists” who started the violence.
After the riots on Wednesday, the city’s mayor extended the state of emergency. It is to be expected that some Trump supporters will continue their violent protests until Biden’s inauguration, so the reasoning.