Assault on the Capitol: the leader of one of the main American far-right groups arrested

The charismatic leader and founder of the Oath Keepers, one of the main groups of the American far right, was arrested Thursday, charged with “sedition” for his role in the violent assault on the Capitol on January 6 2021.

This is the most serious charge brought to date against the participants in the attack on the headquarters of Congress, when elected officials certified Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

In another part of this vast investigation, the parliamentary commission, responsible for shedding light on the events of 6 January and to establish the responsibility of Donald Trump, announced Thursday to assign the social networks Alphabet, parent company of Youtube, Meta (formerly Facebook), Reddit and Twitter.

Elected officials want to know “how much the spread of misinformation and violent extremism has contributed” to this assault and any actions these companies have taken to prevent their platforms from becoming tools of radicalization.

Stewart Rhodes, 56 years old, was charged with “sedition” with ten other members Oath Keepers.

Nine of them had already been arrested and faced charges of “criminal association” to interfere with an official process or violence, which involved a certain degree of coordination.

The accusation of “sedition”, very rarely used and punishable by 20 years in prison, goes further.

It involves having conspired against the government or one of its laws, a much more political dimension.

– “Civil war” –

Members of the Oath Keepers group on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on 10 August 2015 (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – SCOTT OLSON)Two days after the November 3 presidential election 2020, Stewart Rhodes had claimed in an encrypted conversation with other members: “We can’t get out of this without a civil war”, according to the indictment.

Before January 6, Stewart Rhodes “associated” with some of his co-defendants “in order to prevent the peaceful transfer of power”, in particular “by using violence”, is- he indicated.

The members of the arrested Oath Keepers thus “organized transport from all over the country to Washington, equipped themselves with all kinds of weapons, dressed in combat gear and they were ready to respond to the calls to arms of Rhodes”.

Their aim was to “penetrate by force and t to take control” of the Capitol, the document claims.

At the time of the attack, Mr. Rhodes, a former serviceman who founded the Oath Keepers in 34, was near the Capitol, but it is not certain that he entered its enclosure.

In addition to Stewart Rhodes, who graduated in law from Yale University before practicing in Montana, the security forces arrested Thursday, in Arizona, another member of this radical group, Edward Vallejo, 34 years old.

– Global Conspiracy –

Mr. Rhodes is the figurehead, recognizable by his patch over his left eye, of this largely decentralized paramilitary organization with several thousand members, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which fights anti-Semitism and racism.

The Oath Keepers are opposed in particular to the federal government, accused of collaborating with a world conspiracy to deprive American citizens of their rights, in particular that of possessing a weapon.

The organization primarily recruits soldiers, police, firefighters or members of the emergency services, who have sworn to protect the American Constitution “against its foreign and domestic enemies”, according to the ADL.

Upon joining the Oath Keepers, they also promise to disobey any order from a “tyrannical government” that violates the Constitution, such as “disarming the Americans” or imposing martial law on the country.

The Oath Keepers, dressed in military uniforms and armed, have increased their visibility in 2020 by participating in demonstrations against the restrictions imposed in some states to stem the coronavirus pandemic. They also displayed themselves on the sidelines of the major anti-racist demonstrations which shook the country in order, according to them, to protect businesses from looting.

The group also takes up conspiracy theories such as the existence of a “deep state” within the US administration wanting to establish a “new world order” and undermine the authority of ex-president Donald Trump.

Since January 6 , more than 725 people – including members of far-right groups Proud Boys, Oath Keepers or Three Percenters – have been arrested for their participation in the Assault on the Capitol.