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The Road to Jan. 6: A Year of Extremist Mobilization

The Road to Jan. 6: A Year of Extremist Mobilization

On Jan. 6, 2021, a right-wing mob stormed the U.S. Capitol at the urging of President Donald J. Trump in an attempt to prevent the certification of presidential election results. But the attack didn’t come from nowhere. It was the culmination of a year of increasingly radical activity by a slew of extremists around the country. They mobilized against racial justice protests, COVID-19 prevention measures, and voting rights for all Americans, and were goaded on by the president and politicians on the right.

Dec. 19, 2019
Jan. 6, 2021
Dec. 19, 2019 | Clark County, Va. Far-right activists associated with antigovernment extremist group the Oath Keepers pressure the local government to become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” 120 localities in Virginia and 400 localities in 20 states eventually claim the designation, urged on by groups like the Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
Jan. 19, 2020 | Richmond, Va.A heavily armed antigovernment protest of around 20,000 people rallies to promote lax gun regulations. In attendance are at least 18 militias and 34 hate and extremist groups tracked by SPLC, among them the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Proud Boys, and antigovernment extremist groups the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. Days before the rally, authorities arrest members of white nationalist terrorist group The Base. They would later be convicted of plotting a terrorist attack at the rally.
April 9 | Emmet, Idaho Antigovernment extremist Ammon Bundy forms the People’s Rights movement in response to COVID-19 public health measures.
April 15 | Lansing, Mich.Thousands converge on the Michigan State Capitol to protest COVID-19 public health measures put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Members of the Michigan Proud Boys attended the protest.

May 25 | Minneapolis George Floyd is murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, and protests erupt across the country, eventually reaching more than 140 cities and towns. The National Guard is activated in 21 states. Antigovernment extremist boogaloo boys, who promote violence in order to hasten a civil war, take advantage of the protests to commit acts of violence against law enforcement. The Proud Boys also counterprotest around the country, using the demonstrations as an excuse to fight with marchers.

  • About 94% of all pro-BLM demonstrations are peaceful, with 6% involving reports of violence, clashes with police, vandalism, looting or other destructive activity. Demonstrations involving right-wing militias or militant social movements have turned violent or destructive more than twice as often, nearly 14% of the time.
May 28 | MinneapolisBoogaloo boy Ivan Harrison Hunter, 26, fires an AK-47 thirteen times into the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct. BLM protesters were initially blamed, but in October 2020 Hunter is charged based on video footage.
May 29 | Oakland, Calif. Self-professed boogaloo boy and active-duty Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, allegedly commits a drive-by shooting targeting Federal Protective Services Officers outside of the federal building. One guard, David Patrick Underwood, is killed, and his partner is injured. Eight days later, Carrillo ambushes law enforcement in Ben Lomond, California, during his arrest, killing Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and injuring two other officers.
May 30 | Las VegasThree boogaloo boys are arrested. Grand jury transcripts indicate they had plans to firebomb an energy substation and create a confrontation between protesters and police to further their cause of instigating a civil war.
June 13 | Kootenai County, Idaho“Liberate America!” rally hosted by North Idaho Exposed platforms regional far-right extremist leaders and organizations from the anti-Muslim, conspiracy and militia movements, among them Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center, Joey Gibson of Patriot Prayer, Ammon Bundy of People’s Rights, Jack Robinson (aka John Jacob Schmidt) of Radio Free Redoubt, and Greg Pruett of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, as well as representatives of the John Birch Society and Proud Boys of Spokane, Washington. Government officials in attendance include Montana State Rep. Theresa Manzella, Idaho State Rep. Heather Scott, and Washington State Rep. Matt Shea.
Aug. 15 | Stone Mountain, Ga.Various Three Percent militias, including Chris Hill’s Security Force III%, hold a demonstration in favor of monuments to the Confederacy.
Aug. 22 | Portland, Ore.A crowd of more than 100 far-right activists, including Proud Boys, stage a “Back the Blue” rally in Portland. The come wielding paintball guns, bats, and other weapons, and brawl with counterprotesters for more than two hours without police interference. Far-right activist Alan Swinney points a gun at the opposing side.
Aug. 25 | Kenosha, Wis.Kyle Rittenhouse shoots three people, killing two, at a Black Lives Matter protest. He had traveled from Illinois to join a paramilitary effort to oppose the protest. In November 2021, he would be acquitted of intentional homicide on grounds of self-defense.
Sept. 7 Far-right commentator Jack Posobiec tweets, “The steal is cancelled” with the hashtag #StoptheSteal. The phrase “Stop the Steal” was first used by Trump political adviser Roger Stone in 2016.
Sept. 29 | ClevelandAt the first 2020 presidential debate, when asked to condemn the Proud Boys, President Trump tells them to “Stand back and stand by.” “Trump basically said to go fuck them up! this makes me so happy,” Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys leader later arrested for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, posted on social media site Parler.
Oct. 8 | Michigan Wolverine Watchmen militia and boogaloo boys are arrested by the FBI for plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
October The Department of Homeland Security’s Annual Homeland Threat Assessment flags that domestic terrorism and ideologically motivated individuals and small groups were the most likely terrorist threat to the U.S.
Nov. 1 | Lane County, Ore.Armed groups and individuals intimidate voters at ballot drop-off locations.

Nov. 3 | Election Day Election Day features many antigovernment candidates, political violence and intimidation.

Nov. 5 Trump tweets “Stop the count.”
Nov. 5 | Detroit Crowds and QAnon supporters try to enter Detroit’s ballot counting center to stop the vote count.
Nov. 5 “Stop the Steal” spreads online in the wake of Trump’s election loss. Tea Party activist Amy Kremer creates a Facebook group with that name.
Nov. 6 The Department of Justice announces the arrests of Michael Robert Solomon, 30, and Benjamin Ryan Teeter, 22, on multiple charges ranging from possessing unregistered firearms to material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Both were alleged members of the boogaloo movement.
Nov. 7 Joe Biden is officially projected as the winner of the presidential election. Trump states, “This election is far from over.”
Nov. 9 An FBI analyst circulates an email through the Bureau warning that the far right is converging around a narrative that the presidential election had been stolen. “As Joe Biden is declared the victor in the 2020 Presidential Campaign, chatter from the far-right indicates the belief the election was stolen from President Trump,” the email reads. “Keep your head on a swivel.”
NovemberOath Keeper Kelly Meggs messages others warning he is “gonna go on a killing spree” and would target “[Nancy] Pelosi first.”
Nov. 11 Oath Keeper leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes claims online, “election was stolen and this is a communist/Deep State coup, every bit as corrupt and illegitimate as what is done in third world banana republics. We must refuse to EVER recognize this as a legitimate election, and refuse to recognize Biden as a legitimate winner, and refuse to ever recognize him as the President of the United States. This election was stolen by corrupt, law-breaking Democrat partisans on the ground, and by the manipulation of the CIA created HAMMR (‘Hammer’) and Scorecard programs.”
Nov. 14 | Washington, D.C. Thousands of far-right agitators and Trump supporters gather for a rally alternatively called the “Million MAGA March,” the “March for Trump” and “Stop the Steal D.C.” Organizers include Women for America First, the Proud Boys and Alex Jones.
Nov. 17Oath Keeper Jessica Watkins writes, “I can’t predict. I don’t underestimate the resolve of the Deep State. Biden may still yet be our President. If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.”
Nov. 18-21 | Atlanta Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander, white nationalist Nick Fuentes, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio lead a protest at the Georgia State Capitol to protest Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.
Dec. 5 | Olympia, Wash.Trump supporters claiming the election was illegitimate rally at the Washington State Capitol. Protesters openly carry long guns, semi-automatic rifles, handguns and even bats. One person is shot.
Dec. 7 | MichiganJoe Biden’s win in Michigan is officially certified, and “Stop the Steal” protesters target Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson at her home.
Dec. 12 | St. Paul, Minn. The Stop the Steal protest in St. Paul is one of many protests around the country over the first few weeks of December where anti-democracy actors converge on state capitols to challenge the legitimacy of the election results. Boogaloo boy Michael Dahlager is in attendance and is later charged with illegal possession of a machine gun after disclosing to a law enforcement source that he was willing to kill law enforcement and possessed a 3D-printed “drop in auto sear,” a part that would illegally modify his gun to make it an automatic weapon.

Dec. 12 | Washington, D.C. “Stop the Steal” protests in Washington, D.C., lead to nine injuries and 33 arrests. During the protests, Proud Boys destroy two Black Lives Matter banners stolen from historic Black churches. Enrique Tarrio, the group’s chairman, was later sentenced to five months in jail after he admitted to burning one of the banners. He also pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a high-capacity magazine.

Dec. 19 On Twitter, Trump encourages supporters to converge on D.C. on Jan. 6. “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
Dec. 21 | Salem, Ore.Far-right protesters, including Patriot Prayer members, storm the Oregon Statehouse. Police are sprayed with “some kind of chemical agent” twice. The glass door of the Capitol Building is shattered, journalists are assaulted, and State Rep. Mike Nearman lets far-right activists in the building in a pre-planned coordinated act.
Dec. 30 | Emmet, Idaho Bundy’s People’s Rights organization encourages supporters to attend D.C. or local Stop the Steal rallies and recruit for the organization.
Dec. 31 Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell posts on social media, “It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil...”
Jan. 1, 2021 Caldwell posts on Facebook that he, “swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I did the former, I have done the latter peacefully but they have morphed into pure evil even blatantly rigging an election and paying off the political caste. We must smite them now and drive them down.”
Jan. 4 Oath Keepers leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes posts on the organization’s website, “We are on record as strongly encouraging President Trump to invoke the insurrection Act ... We also strongly encourage him to then use the military and the militia (including all of us veterans) to conduct an actual clean election, with paper ballots ... As we have done on all recent DC Ops, we will also have well armed and equipped QRF teams on standby, outside DC, in the event of a worst case scenario, where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC. ... Over the years, Oath Keepers has conducted hundreds of highly successful volunteer security operations all over the nation, protecting patriots from communist terrorist assault.”
Jan. 4 On a livestream of his show America First, white nationalist and Stop the Steal promoter Nick Fuentes raises the idea of killing lawmakers. “Republicans just screwed us every day for two months straight, and we have no recourse. Why? Because we have no leverage. What are we going to do to them? What can you and I do to a state legislator besides kill them?” he asks his listeners.
Jan. 5 Members of the Proud Boys create a group called “Boots on the Ground” on an encrypted messaging app to coordinate with one another during the demonstration planned for the next day. Over 60 members of the group join the chat.
Jan. 5Jack Posobiec tells The Epoch Times that the joint session of Congress “will be something that no one’s seen before.”

Jan. 6 | Washington, D.C. A mob supporting Trump’s false claims of electoral victory enters the U.S. Capitol seeking to overturn the election and interrupt the electoral vote count. Among those arrested are members of the Proud Boys, the Three Percenter movement and the Oath Keepers.

  • Attacks by antigovernment militia groups also took place at state Capitol buildings in: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
  • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff are evacuated from the State Capitol in Atlanta as protesters with assault rifles enter and try to track him down.

Photo and video credits, from top: JohnHHarrington/Pond5; John Rudoff/Sipa USA/AP Images; Steve Helber/AP Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Paul Sancya/AP Images; Scott Olson/Getty Images; Sherburne County Jail; Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office/AP Images; Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/AP Images; Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review; Jenni Girtman/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP Images; Maranie Staab/Reuters; Adam Rogan/The Journal Times/AP Images; Twitter; Twitter; Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Delaware Attorney General’s Office, Kent County Jail, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Richland County Public Information Office, Antrim County Jail; B. Christopher/Alamy Stock Photo; Sherburne County Jail; Andy Nelson/Imagn Content Services, LLC; Toshio Sasaki/Getty Images; Twitter; Carlos Osorio/AP Images; Sherburne County Sheriff's Office/AP Images; Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images; Alex Driehaus/ Imagn Content Services, LLC; ITAR-TASS News Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Marion County Jail; Susan Walsh/AP Images; B.A. Van Sise/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Jim Bourg/Reuters; Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images; David Ryder/Getty Images; Kathleen Galligan/Imagn Content Services, LLC; Chad Davis/WikiCommons; Amy Harris/ Shutterstock; Twitter; Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Reuters; Video Screengrab; Department of Justice; Kevin Lamarque/Reuters; Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images; Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto/AP Images; Stephanie Keith/Getty Images; Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons; JohnHHarrington/Pond5. 

More on Jan. 6

To read SPLC's complete coverage of the January 6 insurrection, visit The Long Path to Insurrection.