When they stormed the US capital on Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s supporters left a massive digital footprint of their ravages. When law enforcement agencies begin a search for the rioters, they get help from online ads and investigation teams that pore over a lot of pictures and clips published on social media by people who break the law.
On January 6, when crowds looted the US capital, chat groups lit up with incredible questions from observers around the world, watching scenes of devastation within the sanctuary of American democracy. In a country notorious for its presence of weapons and heavily militarized law enforcement services, security flaws were difficult to understand.
But in many chat groups, stunned comments about the inadequate security at the Capitol were met with other observations. President Donald Trump’s inflated supporters may have destroyed, desecrated and looted the premises in plain sight, but their cheers on mainstream and social media would also be their regret: the riots left so many digital traces, it was only a matter of time before they were identified and tracked .
It was not long before the FBI and Washington, DC, issued police notices seeking general help to identify people “making illegal entry” into the U.S. Capitol building. The DC police statement contained a 27-page document with photographs of “persons of interest” facing federal charges “due to insurgency at the US Capitol”.
The MPD is seeking help in identifying individuals of interest who are responsible for illegal burglary that occurred yesterday at the US Capitol Grounds, 100 blocks on 1st Street, NW.
More pictures: https://t.co/i2Hbv1bkPh
Do you have information? Call (202) 727-9099 / text 50411 pic.twitter.com/yWIPEaxxFW
– DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) January 7, 2021
The call from law enforcement was answered by online ads, open source researchers, investigation teams and even average people who raised the issue. They identified a mixed mix of white supremacists, QAnon conspirators (who believe a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is plotting against Trump), gun activists, neo-Nazis, military veterinarians and professionals from various sectors who tried to derail the democratic process on Wednesday afternoon.
‘You are fired’
By the end of the week, some of them had lost their jobs.
On Thursday, Navistar, a Maryland-based direct marketing company, issued a statement saying the company “became aware that a man wearing a Navistar brand was seen inside the US capital” during the riot. After an “examination of the photographic evidence, the employee in question has been terminated for the reason”, the statement said, adding that although the company supported the right to freedom of expression, it did not tolerate “dangerous behavior”.
The former Navistar employee, who was not identified, was caught on several news photographs next to a crossed Trump supporter in fur, horns and face paint that caught the world’s attention on fateful Wednesday.
Jake Angeli, who calls himself “a digital QAnon soldier” and a “shamanist consultant for Trump supporters”, has been a prominent figure at Trump meetings and has attracted media attention with his outlandish attire. At a rally in Arizona with “Stop the steal” in November, for example, Angeli told the French television show Quotidien that a “CIA and Nazi-infiltrated” media “lied” about “the communist” Joe Biden victory in the 2020 presidential election.
Among the protesters who envied the Congress, there was a man with a bed of cattle and tattoos of Vikings who had a lot of vu: QAnon Shaman. In reality, it’s Jake Angelli’s call. På l’avait rencontré il ya 2 mois. And yes, he had the air … particular 🤯 # Quotidien pic.twitter.com/WEUzyCbQ3j
– Quotidien (@Qofficiel) January 7, 2021
Hanging out with a tattooed, Viking-horned “shaman” while breaking the law in front of media cameras is not the most cautious strategy, especially with an employer’s brand on a prominent screen.
“Freedom!” shouts a Trump supporter in a reference to Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” war cry. AFP – WIN MCNAMEE
When law enforcement agencies put up warrants for suspects, local news teams across the country followed the story. Chicago-based local cable news channel WGN TV identified the home address and knocked on the door of Brad Rukstales, CEO of Cogensia tech company, who was arrested on Wednesday in Washington DC. The team received no response, but it received a Cogensia statement that Rukstales was on “leave” while the company investigated his involvement in the Capitol invasion.
Outraged by the storming of the American Capitol assembly, some companies were quick to distance themselves from employees who had posted pictures or pictures of themselves inside the Capitol. Shortly after the media reported Paul Davis as an adviser to Goosehead Insurance, the Texas-based company issued a brief statement saying “Paul Davis, Deputy General Counsel, is no longer employed by Goosehead,” on Twitter.
Paul Davis, Deputy General Counsel, is no longer employed by Goosehead.
– Goosehead Insurance (@followgoosehead) January 7, 2021
It was not clear if Davis left the company or quit, CNN reported, adding that Davis had not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Meanwhile, Libby Andrews, a real estate agent who posted a selfie explaining that she was “storming the Capitol” by her company, was fired.
Another appreciated resignation due to his participation in Wednesday’s events was Rick Saccone, a former Pennsylvania representative who held an adjunct professorship at Saint Vincent College.
Speaking to Tribune-Review, a local newspaper, Saccone said he “decided to resign to improve the school” and added: “I have been there for 21 years. I did not want all this terrible media birds to harm the school. I decided because it would be better if I just resigned. ”
Tribune-Review reported that in a post on social media that has since been removed, Saccone wrote: “We are storming the capital. Our avant-garde has broken through the barricades. We will save this nation. Are you with me? ”
Captured in picture
During their hour-long ravage of the Capitol building, a number of Trump supporters in public displays of disrespect for Democratic lawmakers, including the looting of their offices.
Among the most shocking were photographs of a Trump supporter in a baseball cap with his feet up on the house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett at House Speaker Nancy Pelos’ desk on January 6, 2020. © AFP
The man was identified by New York Times reporter Mathew Rosenberg on Twitter later Wednesday as Richard “Bigo” Barnett, 60, of Arkansas. Barnett is a pro-gun activist who has often made unjustified allegations that the election was stolen on social media accounts under pseudonyms.
After entering Pelosi’s office, Barnett was photographed outside the Capitol building with a letter from her desk. Barnett showed the letterhead to journalists and boasted that he did not steal the stationery because he “left a quarter on her desk”.
It’s Richard “Bigo” Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Ak., Showing the personal envelope he took from President Pelo’s office. He insisted he did not steal it – “I left a quarter on her desk.” pic.twitter.com/aST7MCoRwP
– Matthew Rosenberg (@AllMattNYT) January 6, 2021
Pelosi was a special target during Wednesday’s ravage. Another cover photo in several newspapers featured one of a man grinning as he waved at the camera as he looted a lectern with the Capitol seal.
The lecturer was identified by USA Today as Adam Christian Johnson, a resident of Florida with a record of minor drug offenses.
Investigative journalists and FBI teams also make a few hours of photos and many photos posted on social media to reveal where and how the rioters managed to break through security to storm the building.
On Friday, the London-based survey website Bellingcat released a video showing the conduct and exits of rioters on the Capitol premises.
The collaboration between digital truths that work with material that is happily published by dissidents to break the law is likely to provide a significant basis for the men and women who stormed the US capital. Security at the building may have been overwhelming on Wednesday afternoon, but the perpetrators are not about to flee American justice.