On January 6, thousands of pro-Trump protesters gathered at a rally near the White House to rail against a fantasy: that the election was stolen from their beloved Donald Trump. It was from this crowd—which included white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Christian insurrectionists—that the murderous mob of terrorists emerged and attacked the Capitol, with some marauders looking to take hostages or possibly assassinate elected officials of the United States. Five people died. Who helped to assemble the rally, where Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rudy Giuliani, and others whipped up the demonstrators with false claims of an evil plot against Trump before thousands marched to Capitol Hill to wage seditious mayhem?
The organizers of the March for Trump (also known as the March to Save America) have taken down the website for the rally and subsequent march, but an archived page cites nine “coalition partners.” It is a list that should not be forgotten—especially given that some of the sponsors have apparently tried to wipe away their fingerprints.
Women for America First. This outfit, which was created in 2019 to oppose the Trump impeachment, was the main organizer of the rally. As a dark-money nonprofit, it does not have to disclose its donors. But as CNBC reported, America First Policies, a pro-Trump policy advocacy group, contributed $25,000 to Women for America First in 2019. (America First Policies is headed by Linda McMahon, a longtime Trump supporter and former head of the Small Business Administration.) Women for America First is run by Amy Kremer, a former leader of Tea Party Express. Her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, the executive director of Women for Trump, was listed as the applicant for the rally’s permit. (Amy Kremer has also been co-chair of Women for Trump.) As Mother Jones reported last year, Kremer’s Tea Party Express was “well known for being run by a political action committee that raised tons of money from small donors and spent most of it on the political consultants who started the PAC rather than on candidates.” Women for America First is essentially part of Trump’s political operation.
My Pillow. Yes, a pillow company run by that guy you see on television, Mike Lindell, helped spark a terrorist raid on the US government. Lindell, who co-chaired Trump’s reelection campaign in Minnesota, has been one of Trump’s loudest champions—and a spreader of conspiracy theories. Lindell has claimed that voting machines were rigged to produce Joe Biden’s victory. And he has financed the work of pro-Trump lawyers (and conspiracy theorists) Lin Wood and Sidney Powell. Though he has been one of Fox News’ biggest advertisers, he lately has accused the right-wing network of suppressing supposed evidence of election fraud. Following the assault on the Capitol, he was one of those Trumpers who suggested that “plants” might have orchestrated the violence. “First of all, the riots you’re seeing on TV—that’s a joke,” Lindell said in a video posted on social media. “My nieces were down there, and they said 99.9 percent was—it was just peaceful protest. There might have been some people, the ones that broke in—they seemed to break in early, and, for all we know, it could have been plants.”
Turning Point Action. This is the student-oriented right-wing group of Trump lovers run by Charlie Kirk, who was the opening speaker at last years’ Republican convention. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Kirk has organized Trump-cheering events that have crammed together attendees. In September, the Washington Post reported that Turning Point was running a “sprawling yet secretive campaign” to disseminate pro-Trump propaganda “that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.” Two days before the January 6 rally, Kirk in a tweet boasted that Students for Trumps and Turning Point Action were “Sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” After the attack, he deleted the tweet.
Phyllis Schlafly Eagles. This is the outgrowth of the group that rightwing titan Phyllis Schlafly, who died in 2016, ran for years. It opposes UN treaties, “radical feminists,” federally regulated day care, abortion rights, gun restrictions, the usual. On the day of the attack, Ed Martin, the president of this group, posted a photo of himself meeting with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) in which they are smiling and together holding a “Stop the Steal” sign. Following the attack, Martin also looked for cover with the Antifa-did-it conspiracy theory, approvingly retweeting a tweet from Rep. Brooks that claimed, “Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.” Martin RTed another tweet that maintained there was “no evidence of an attack on the Capitol police officer”—two days after the assault.
Moms for America. This is another Schlafly-ish nonprofit. Its president and founder, Kimberly Fletcher, has been on the Trump conspiracy bandwagon for years. In October 2016, she wrote an article for the Blaze contending that Trump’s claims that he was going to be the victim of a rigged election “isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s a conspiracy fact.” She observed at that time, “The media has in essence become the publicity arm of the Democrat party. That is evidenced by the complete neglect on the part of mass media to report on anything negative about Hillary while latching on to anything negative about Trump—creating their own dirt when there isn’t enough.” (Anyone remember the Clinton emails?) In December, Moms for America held a “Keep Christmas” rally in Washington featuring…Mike Lindell. Prior to that event, Fletcher groused, “Politicians have used Covid-19 as a massive power grab.” On the day Trump followers sacked the Capitol, Moms for America held an event where Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) appeared and said that conservatives would lose unless “we win the hearts and minds of our children. This is the battle. Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.'” After her citation of Hitler sparked an outcry, Miller apologized.
Peaceably Gather. This group calls itself “an organization that stands for Americans right to freely worship.” Its guiding force is a pastor named Brian Gibson who leads a church in Owensboro, Kentucky. He has railed against COVID safeguards that limit church attendance. He is a fiery speaker and participated in the “March for Trump” bus tour that preceded the rally. On January 2, at a stop in West Monroe, Louisiana, a worked-up Gibson told the crowd about the Black Robe Regiment, preachers who fought during the American Revolution. “You are not designed to be controlled…This is our land, not their land,” he bellowed. “And it’s about time we get serious about taking it back.” He noted that the the Black Robe Regiment “preached out of Ecclesiastes. They said there was a time for peace and there was a time for war. What pastors do is we lead sheep. We feed sheep. But we also kill wolves…You cannot negotiate with wolves. There is only one thing we can do with a wolf.” Gibson didn’t specify what that one thing is. But it sure didn’t seem that he was saying one should peaceably gather with a wolf. After the January 6 rally, he told a Kentucky television station that he had attended the protest in Washington only to nonviolently oppose Biden’s election and was not part of the group that stormed the Capitol.
Wild Protest. It is unclear exactly what Wild Protest is—or was—and who was behind it. A website called WildProtest.com promoted the rally and the subsequent march to Capitol Hill, referencing Trump’s statement that this day would be “wild.” The site—which said it was “brought to you by Stop the Steal and its coalition leaders”—declared, “We the People must take to the US Capitol lawn and steps and tell Congress #DoNotCertify on #JAN6! Congress cannot certify this fraudulent Electoral College. Our presence in Washington D.C. will let Members of Congress know that we stand with Rep. Mo Brooks and his colleagues in the House of Representatives who will bravely object to the certification of the Electoral College.” (The permit issued for the rally did not cover the Capitol lawn and steps.) After the deadly assault, the website was taken down.
Stop the Steal. Stop the Steal is the name of the right-wing movement to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, which has been led by Ali Alexander, its self-proclaimed “national organizer.” (Alexander pleaded guilty to credit card fraud in 2008.) In mid-November, a lawyer for Alexander registered Stop the Steal as a limited liability corporation in Alabama. Last month, at a rally in Arizona, Alexander told the crowd, “One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks. I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!” But it’s unclear exactly what Stop the Steal meant on the list of coalition partners. Immediately after the election, a Stop the Steal group materialized on Facebook, claiming Biden was robbing Trump of a rightful victory. As Mother Jones noted, this was an amorphous effort “organized largely by a collection of disgraced right-wing internet figures.” CNN reported the Facebook “group was managed by a loose coalition of right wing operatives, some of whom have worked with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. The group amassed hundreds of thousands of followers in little more than a day before Facebook shut it down on November 5—the day after it was launched.” Still, similar pages quickly proliferated afterward. The origins of this initiative go back several years. In 2016, Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser and shady political operative who was convicted of lying to Congress (and pardoned by Trump), launched a Stop the Steal website to raise money, claiming Democrats were preparing to steal that year’s election from Trump. On Friday, Alexander insisted on a video posted to Twitter, “I didn’t incite anything. I didn’t do anything.” He was subsequently banned from Twitter. On Friday, BuzzFeed reported there were at least 66 Facebook groups tied to the Stop the Steal message.
Tea Party Patriots. This is how we described this conservative organization in 2011: “Two years ago, Tea Party Patriots got its start as a scrappy, ground-up conservative organization…But it didn’t take long for the grassroots tea party organization to embrace the DC establishment—and some of its more questionable practices…The group’s leaders have cozied up to political insiders implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and have paid themselves significant salaries. TPP accepted the use of a private jet and a large donation of anonymous cash right before a key election, and its top officials have refused to discuss how the money was spent. And recently, the group has hired several big-time fundraising and public relations firms that work for the who’s who of the Republican political class, including some of the GOP’s most secretive campaign operations.” On January 6, Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, posted a photo of herself at the pre-attack rally and noted, “I am here at the Save America March to fight for President Trump. We will not allow them to steal this election!” Sometime between 4:27 p.m. and 10:49 pm on January 6—that is, after the mob had ransacked the Capitol—the Tea Party Patriots were removed from the list of sponsors on the March for Trump’s website.
It’s not surprising that these people and outfits were part of the rally. They have all been key elements of Trump’s support structure and have enthusiastically promoted his bogus accusations about the election. There’s no evidence tying them directly to the violence that occurred. But they all had a hand in riling up a crowd that was fueled by resentment, paranoia, and anger. Together, they gathered a crowd that included extremist militants, got them hopped up on lies and hatred, and pointed them at the Capitol. In the aftermath of this horrific event, they can delete tweets and promulgate more conspiracy theories, but they bear responsibility. They literally set the stage for the deadly attack. Their collective culpability cannot be wiped away by taking down a website.