US Arrests 6 More Linked to Oath Keepers in Capitol Attack

U.S. prosecutors announced Friday the arrest of six more people associated with the far-right Oath Keepers militia in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.Five of the six were part a group of militia members who used a military-style “stack” formation to breach the Capitol, along with hundreds of others, in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the election victory of Trump rival Joe Biden, prosecutors said.In a statement, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia said the rioters donned paramilitary gear, “marched up the center steps on the east side of the U.S. Capitol, breached the door at the top and then stormed the building.”They marched on the Capitol after attending a Trump rally near the White House where Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell.”FILE – Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers, center, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017.Who are the Oath Keepers?Founded in 2019 by Stewart Rhodes, a U.S. Army veteran, the Oath Keepers recruit current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel. Rhodes, who allegedly encouraged members and affiliates to travel to Washington last month in support of Trump’s fight against what he falsely called a Democratic coup and was seen outside the Capitol during the riot, has not been arrested.In court documents, prosecutors said some members of the Oath Keepers began coordinating and planning the January 6 attack as early as November and used social media, text messaging and messaging apps to recruit “as large a following as possible to go to Washington, D.C., to support the January 6 operation.”In early November, Watkins, the self-styled commander of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a subset of the Oath Keepers she created in 2019, invited new recruits for training in paramilitary combat tactics. On November 9, she texted one recruit, “I need you fighting fit by inauguration.”This purported planning by the Oath Keepers and other groups was cited by Trump’s lawyers during his impeachment trial to argue that the riot would have happened regardless of Trump’s exhortations. But court documents show that as right-wing activists were planning, they were doing so in response to Trump’s call to arms.FILE – Supporters of President Donald Trump clash with police at the west entrance of the Capitol during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2021.’Wild’ event promised In late December, after Trump urged his ardent supporters to come to Washington for a rally that he predicted would be “wild,” Kelly Meggs, the leader of the Florida chapter, wrote in a Facebook message, “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”And in a December 9 text message to another Oath Keeper, Watkins wrote, “We plan on going to DC on Jan. 6. Trump wants all able-bodied patriots to come.”Prosecutors said Watkins provided “logistical assistance” for the attack on the Capitol, finding a hotel for several Oath Keepers to stay in around the January 6. And for days afterward, she thought she would escape the FBI manhunt, texting Bennie Parker on January 9, “I wouldn’t worry about them coming after us.”But on January 17, the FBI arrested her and two of her comrades.An estimated 700 people took part in the January 6 riot. A recent analysis of the more than 200 Capitol rioters arrested so far revealed that just 10% had ties to militias and other far-right groups; the rest were “normal” Trump supporters angry over the former president’s defeat.In addition to the Oath Keepers, several members of another militia known as the Three Percenters and more than a dozen members of the Proud Boys, a pro-Trump far-right group, have been arrested.  

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