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A Small Group of Militants’ Outsize Role in the Capitol Attack

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Affiliated With the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys or Three Percenters

18 charged with conspiracy

Military veterans

charged with conspiracy

Charged with conspiracy,

no known military service

Veterans charged with

crimes other than conspiracy

Charged with crimes other than conspiracy,

no known military service

Affiliated With the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys or Three Percenters

18 charged with conspiracy

Veterans charged

with conspiracy

Charged with

conspiracy, no known

military service

Veterans charged

with crimes other than

conspiracy

Charged with crimes

other than conspiracy,

no known military service

Affiliated With the Oath Keepers,

Proud Boys or Three Percenters

18 charged with conspiracy

Veterans

charged with

conspiracy

Charged with

conspiracy,

no known

military service

Veterans

charged

with crimes

other than

conspiracy

Charged with crimes

other than conspiracy,

no known military service

Affiliated With the Oath Keepers,

Proud Boys or Three Percenters

18 charged with conspiracy

Veterans

charged with

conspiracy

Charged with

conspiracy,

no known

military service

Veterans

charged

with crimes

other than

conspiracy

Charged with crimes

other than conspiracy,

no known military service

Notes: The people shown here include those identified by law enforcement, family members or themselves as being affiliated with the militant group. Those wearing their group’s paraphernalia are also included. People who only briefly referenced support for or awareness of the group are excluded.

As federal prosecutors unveil charges in the assault on the Capitol last month, they have repeatedly highlighted two militant groups — the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — as being the most organized, accusing them of planning their strategy ahead of time and in some cases helping escalate a rally into an attack.

The two organizations stand in contrast to a majority of the mob. Of the more than 230 people charged so far, only 31 are known to have ties to a militant extremist group. And at least 26 of those are affiliated with the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys.

The groups differ in their focus and tactics: The Oath Keepers are part of an anti-government militia movement that emphasizes military-style training, while the Proud Boys espouse an ideology of male and Western superiority, with members often expressing white-supremacist and anti-immigrant views. But the groups have been united in their allegiance to former President Donald J. Trump.

Conspiracy charges, among the most serious levied so far, indicate that members of these groups may have worked together and planned their activities, potentially in ways that made them more dangerous than other rioters. Federal prosecutors have said that some members used teamwork to help people escape arrest and to direct and provoke protesters to overwhelm police defenses.

Of the 22 people charged with conspiracy crimes by mid-February, 18 were known to have ties to one of those two groups.

Another likely factor in the groups’ activities: More than a third of the militants were also known to have military experience, a far higher proportion than in the crowd as a whole.

“Right-wing groups targeted military veterans for having the skill sets that they were looking for,” said Peter D. Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who specializes in military-civilian relations. “They weren’t recruiting from among the Columbia Journalism School.”

Although militants were a small part of the mob, their organizational tactics could have influenced others’ behavior and made the riot more violent, said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University. Some extremist far-right groups, particularly in Europe, have recently used larger protests as cover for more violent activities, she said.

The groups’ role in the Capitol riots helps shed light on their tactics, and it also highlights important differences among elements of the sprawling far-right landscape.

A group of nine that ‘put into motion the violence’


Federal prosecutors have said members of the Oath Keepers militia group planned and organized their attack and “put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol.”

Ten people affiliated with the group have faced federal charges so far, and the F.B.I. has said it is seeking information about others seen on video wearing tactical gear and moving in formation with other members.

On Friday, the federal government announced conspiracy charges against six people prosecutors said were members of the group who stormed the Capitol in a military-style “stack.” Earlier, prosecutors had charged three other people they said conspired with those six.

Affiliated With Oath Keepers

Charged with conspiracy together

Broke into the west side of the Capitol.

Broke into the east side along with other Oath Keepers.

Recruited by Ms. Watkins.

Members of the Florida Oath Keepers chapter.

Sprayed police officers with pepper spray.

Affiliated With Oath Keepers

Charged with conspiracy together

A large group of nine Oath Keepers is charged with conspiring together and breaking into the Capitol from two different directions.

Sprayed police officers with pepper spray.

Unlike the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers are a more traditional militia group, focused on military-style training and with a largely anti-government stance. Federal prosecutors said members of the group “believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

They focus more than other militant groups on recruiting people with military and law enforcement experience; of the nine people affiliated with Oath Keepers and charged with conspiracy crimes, four were military veterans.

Typically, such right-wing extremists are more likely to be involved in protests against what they view as federal overreach. Mr. Trump’s presidency turned that on its head, leading the Oath Keepers to support at least one aspect of the federal government: Donald J. Trump himself.

According to court documents, Oath Keepers members discussed bringing “heavy weapons” to Washington after the election. Jessica Watkins, who described herself as leader of an Oath Keepers contingent called the Ohio State Regular Militia, said the group was “awaiting direction” after the election from Mr. Trump, then the president.

Other members said they planned to bring mace, gas masks, batons and armor to the Capitol but were not bringing guns because of local laws. Instead, they would have a “quick reaction force” with weapons several minutes away, according to court documents.

Three sets of conspiracy charges among Trump’s most vocal supporters


Of all the militant groups on the far right, the Proud Boys is perhaps the one most associated with Mr. Trump, and thus it is not surprising that it appears to have had a large role in the siege at the Capitol, which grew out of his false claims that he won re-election. At least 16 people with ties to the organization are facing federal charges in the attacks. That’s the most of any known entity.

As of mid-February, three separate groups of Proud Boys members faced conspiracy crime charges, with the government saying they worked together during different parts of the riot. In each of these groups, former military members played a prominent role, including in leading other members of the mob, prosecutors said.

Affiliated With Proud Boys

Charged with conspiracy together

Ethan Nordean, Seattle Proud Boys leader

Joseph Biggs,

Proud Boys organizer

These four led a large group of Proud Boys during the Capitol riot. Mr. Pezzola was filmed using a police shield to smash through a window to breach the Capitol.

The group tried to prevent the arrest of a rioter and stopped the police from closing barriers under the Capitol.

The pair defaced government property by scrawling the words “Murder the Media” on the Memorial Door of the Capitol.

Others have been arrested on charges like trespassing but are not known to have worked together.

Affiliated With Proud Boys

Charged with conspiracy together

Seattle Proud Boys leader

These four led a large group of Proud Boys during the Capitol riot. Mr. Pezzola was filmed using a police shield to smash through a window to breach the Capitol.

The group tried to prevent the arrest of a rioter and stopped the police from closing barriers under the Capitol.

Founder of Hawaii Proud Boys Chapter

The pair defaced government property by scrawling the words “Murder the Media” on the Memorial Door of the Capitol.

Others have been arrested on charges like trespassing but are not known to have worked together.

Note: The Proud Boys has long prohibited membership by women, but Felicia Konold, Cory Konold’s sister, said she had been recruited by a chapter of the organization, according to court documents.

The Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist organization with several chapters across the United States, vocally tied itself to Mr. Trump’s presidency and has attempted to influence mainstream Republican politics, even as it has regularly engaged in violent skirmishes with left-wing activists.

“The Proud Boys believe the way you change a society is through its culture,” said William Braniff, a professor at the University of Maryland and director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. “They are less disciplined than militia groups but more emotive.”

The group was recently designated a terrorist organization in Canada, where the government said its members “espouse misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and/or white supremacist ideologies and associate with white supremacist groups.”

“They are a group that will get in people’s face because they want to get attention, and they want to be provocative,” Mr. Braniff said.

On the day of the riots, Proud Boys leaders used megaphones to lead a group of at least 100 people from Mr. Trump’s speech to the Capitol, prosecutors said. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member, was among the first people to break into the Capitol building, using a stolen police riot shield to bust out a window and allow members of the mob to flood in, according to video footage and court documents.

Militants not charged with conspiracy


Members of other far-right extremist groups, including the anti-government Three Percenters militia, as well as neo-Confederate and white supremacist entities, were also present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. So far, these people have not been charged with conspiracy crimes, and their numbers indicate they are unlikely to have had an organized role in the attack.

Affiliated With Three Percenters

Charged with assaulting police officers.

Entered Capitol with Mr. Pezzola, a Proud Boy.

Threatened to kill his family if they turned him in.

Charged with trespassing.

Affiliated With Three Percenters

Charged with assaulting police officers.

Entered Capitol with Mr. Pezzola, a Proud Boy.

Threatened to kill his family if they turned him in.

Charged with trespassing.

Of the 31 people with militant ties who have been charged so far, at least 11 had a military record. Although people with extremist ideologies represent a small fraction of military veterans, far-right organizations heavily recruit them because of their skills, Dr. Feaver said.

Going forward, the military and federal law enforcement seem poised to take far-right extremism more seriously, domestic terrorism experts said. To do so, they will need to deal not only with the groups that played an important role in the events of Jan. 6, but also with organizations that were not involved, and even more loose affiliations of like-minded people.

“The traditional way of interrupting extremism is by infiltrating groups and interrupting plots,” Dr. Miller-Idriss said. “We see that with some organizations it is possible to do this. But in many cases, it is not.”


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