Time to Take Responsibility: The Uncomfortable Truth About the Capitol Hill Rioters


Federal authorities and internet sleuths are off to the races, making headway on the identification of those involved in the Capitol Hill incursion.

Several popular theories have circulated in light of the hours-long riot, which resulted in widespread government evacuations Wednesday afternoon and delayed congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

None have captured the attention of the right-wing social media sphere quite like claims the incident was a false flag operation, however, with Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida alleging from the House floor that antifa operatives might have instigated outbursts from within the initial pro-Trump protest group.

“I don’t know if the reports are true, but The Washington Times has just reported some pretty compelling evidence from a facial recognition company showing that some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters,” Gaetz said.

“They were masquerading as Trump supporters and, in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”

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Of course, as many have said before: The simplest explanation is often the best explanation. And with photographic evidence already piling up, it would seem the simplest explanation presented was right once again.

The Inconvenient Truth

Trump supporters were not patsies here. They were the primary perpetrators.

Nearly every specific claim to the contrary was proven incapable of holding water within 24 hours of the incident.

In fact, the very report Gaetz referenced in his House remarks Wednesday night was corrected on the Washington Times’ website after further investigation revealed the outlet was mistaken.

This came after facial recognition firm XRVision denied anonymously sourced claims it had found any antifa operatives in the available Capitol Hill riot photos.

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All that was left to go on after that was a number of false identifications made by the American right on social media as the protest spiraled out of control.

According to PolitiFact, the widely pictured man in the face paint and horned buffalo hat was one of the first to be labeled a false-flag operator, with countless Twitter users labeling him an “antifa thug” and Black Lives Matter supporter.

The man was later identified as “Q Shaman” Jake Angeli. A prominent supporter of the QAnon conspiracy, Angeli has long been known as a frequent fixture at right-wing political rallies in Arizona, where Western Journal staff members have seen him on at least one occasion.

Pictured alongside Angeli on Wednesday afternoon were two men the right-wing Twitterverse assured fellow users had appeared on the official website for antifa’s Philadelphia cell.

While tattoo comparisons did initially seem convincing, authoritative sources have been unable to confirm the two men at the Capitol were those featured on the leftist website.

A positive link would only serve to injure the conservative cause further, however, as the antifa image comes from a feature article in which the two men are identified as neo-Nazi white supremacists Jason Tankersley and Matthew Heimbach.

Heck, the protester shot and killed in the Capitol halls was even identified by relatives as Ashli Babbit, a 14-year armed forces veteran and San Diego business owner.

This is not exactly a band of Trump-hating Bolshevik children in the police lineup.

On the contrary, it would seem the Capitol Hill culprits already identified to the public included a series of far-right mainstays, like anti-Semitic “groypers” Nick Fuentes and Tim Gionet.

Not Like Them

None of this is to say that antifa operatives could not have infiltrated the pro-Trump protest that gave way to Wednesday’s Capitol incursion, however.

Is it entirely unbelievable that a few of those anarchist miscreants showed up to sow discord in a massive group of voters already upset by the lack of uniformity and transparency in the American election process? Absolutely not.

From the double-digit death toll to the billions in damages, America saw full well what antifa and other leftist agitators were capable of throughout the course of the 2020 race riots. A few angry delinquents can do a lot of damage by hijacking a charged moment.

If that was the case here, our federal law enforcement can figure it out. At least, they better be able to, with all the funding and fancy equipment we give them.

(In fact, at least one Black Lives Matter-supporting activist allegedly told witnesses that he brought a bullhorn to instigate Trump supporters to attack the Capitol. According to court documents, Sullivan was allegedly was heard telling someone on speakerphone, “I brought my megaphone to instigate s***. I was like, guys we’re going inside, we’re f***ing s*** up. … I’m gonna make these Trump supporters f*** all this s*** up. … But I  mean you’ll see. I have it all, I have everything, everything on camera, everything I just told you, and I mean everything. Trust me when I say my footage is worth like a million of dollars, millions of dollars. I’m holding on to that s***.”)

That really isn’t the point, though — personal responsibility is.

As the folks who preach personal responsibility, perhaps this is our moment to accept some.

A right-wing element was responsible for the ransacking of the United States Capitol building. It was our side.

That is not a hard possibility to accept. That is not a hard reality to accept. Every earthly movement in history has had its share of bad apples and extremists.

Admitting that does not make you a coward or a traitor to the conservative cause. Admitting that does not make you one of the “fascist terrorists,” as the left would like you to believe.

Failing to admit that, however, is a fool’s errand. And it makes conservatives look just as bad as the modern left.

UPDATE, May 25, 2021: This article has been updated to note that at least one Black Lives Matter-supporting activist allegedly told witnesses that he brought a bullhorn to instigate Trump supporters to attack the Capitol.

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Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal. Having joined up as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, he went on to cover the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for the outlet, regularly co-hosting its video podcast, "WJ Live," as well.
Andrew J. Sciascia was the supervising editor of features at The Western Journal and regularly co-hosted the outlet's video podcast, "WJ Live."

Sciascia first joined up with The Western Journal as a regular contributor of opinion in 2018, before graduating with a degree in criminal justice and political science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and worked briefly as a political operative with the Massachusetts Republican Party.

He covered the Barrett confirmation and 2020 presidential election for The Western Journal. His work has also appeared in The Daily Caller.