How conspiracies fueled ArkLaTex support for Capitol violence

Louisiana

(KTAL/KMSS) – The spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories online and from political officials that fueled the violence in Washington D.C. affected every corner of the country. Supporters of the riots organized online through forums like the Parler App and included many people across the ArkLaTex.

Despite the fact that more than 50 court cases found no widespread evidence of election fraud, East Texas congressman U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert has continued to repeat claims to the contrary. A report by the New York Times detailed how Gohmert is one of six key figures in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. He made debunked claims that German computer servers were used to change votes and sued then Vice President Mike Pence in an effort to change the way electoral votes are counted. A suit that was dismissed by Trump-appointed federal judge Jeremy Kernodle because the court lacked jurisdiction over the case.

Two dozen Louisiana State legislators signed a letter to Louisiana Republican Congressmen asking them to reject electors from six swing states for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden. Those included Northwest Louisiana State Representatives Danny McCormick of Oil City, Raymond Crews of Bossier City, Dodie Horton of Haughton, and Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport.

Letter to Louisiana congres… by The Courier and Daily Comet

Websites like Parler, Gab, TheDonald, and MeWe were some of the most popular places to spread misinformation about the election. Plans for the Capitol riots were made in plain view. Participants posted videos and photos on social media as they took over the Capitol Building, many of which are now evidence in charges against them for damage and violence during the riots.

Several ArkLaTex citizens face federal charges for actions at the Capitol, including 31-year-old Ryan Nichols of Longview, 27-year-old Cody Connell of Vivian, and 44-year-old Daniel Page Adams of Goodrich.

Source: Department of Justice from Ryan Nichols’ Facebook shared on KETK

Nichols is allegedly shown in a video grabbing a red aerosol can and spraying it toward Capitol Police officers. The FBI believes another video shows Nichols with a bullhorn shouting, “This is the second revolution right here folks! This is not a peaceful protest” and “If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon!”

Cousins Connell and Adams went to the Capitol together. A cell phone video shows Adams leading a group of rioters as they chase Capitol Police officers up a flight of stairs, attacking them when they stop to position themselves behind their shields. After attacking the officers, he’s seen bleeding and shouting, “This is the Capitol Building. This is my house! This is my house!” as they breach the building.

Daniel Adams with blood pouring down his face after fighting with Capitol Police Officers on January 6. (Photo via The Justice Department) shared on KETK

An 11-page affidavit filed by FBI agent Michael Sahadi Jr. states Connell was identified through his own video and posts to social media in which he states that he has more videos “of us breaching the Capitol but not gonna post them. We will be back and it will be a lot worse than yesterday!” A witness told authorities Connell spoke with at least two people in Texas about purchasing long-rifle firearms, ammunition, and body armor before the inauguration. He allegedly told the witness he would not return to Louisiana unless he was in a body bag.

Conspiracy groups like Q Anon and hate groups like the Proud Boys were the most active participants in organizing and planning the attacks. Following the Jan. 6 riots, Apple and Google banned Parler from their platforms for failing to do more to stop the violence. Several social media platforms cracked down on accounts responsible for sharing conspiracy theories tied to the attack, including former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

Before Amazon Web Services dropped the app from their web hosting platform, a hacker used a registration loophole to access the system. Using a legal means to gather information called scraping, they download nearly all of the data from the site, including user data, posts, videos, geolocation data, and deleted information. This was uploaded to the cloud and turned over to law enforcement. Gizmodo also used aggregated data from the hack to show everywhere that videos and images were being taken and uploaded at the Capitol. The map also shows where Parler users were sharing them in support during the 6th. Both sources have played a significant part in gathering evidence for the FBI in pressing federal charges against alleged rioters.

Parler app users in the ArkLaTex sharing support of the riots on Jan. 6 (Source: Gizmodo aggregate of Parler data)

A year later, many cases are pending, and charges are still being filed as the FBI combs through the massive amount of information collected from various sites and witnesses. The House committee investigating the insurrection is almost ready to publish their findings after months of collecting documents, interviewing witnesses, and talking to election officials around the country who were pressured by former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Americans remain polarized on how they remember the event. Wednesday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said the day is “the solemn anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol…” despite being one of the chief objectors to the election results. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed thanks to the police who protected the Capitol. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy said Wednesday that “Irresponsible words stimulate action which should not occur” and urged officials to watch what they say.

This cautious tone isn’t reflected in the general public. A poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 4 in 10 Republicans recall the attack — in which five people died — as violent, while 9 in 10 Democrats do. Concerns are rising over deepening divisions among political parties and how that may play out in the future.

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