Photos show Trump supporter inside Capitol rioting, not antifa
CLAIM: A shirtless protester wearing a fur hat with horns who stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 was an antifa activist, not a supporter of President Donald Trump.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The man in the photos has been photographed at pro-Trump events for months and has voiced his support for Trump in news articles.
THE FACTS: On Wednesday, Trump supporters gathered in Washington to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s victory as a scheduled count of electoral college votes took place in Congress.
The protest quickly turned violent and a mob breached the Capitol, disrupting the count and instigating an insurrection that left one woman dead.
After photos were shared of protesters storming the Capitol building, social media users claimed those who forced their way inside were not Trump supporters.
Several posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram used the images to claim the rioters were associated with antifa, short for “anti-fascists,” an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups.
“FYI These are NOT Trump supporters....Antifa THUGS” read one widely shared post on Facebook. The post included a photo of protesters inside the Capitol with an orange arrow pointing to a shirtless, tattooed man in the middle of the frame. The man in the photo was holding an American flag, was wearing a fur hat with horns and had red, white and blue face paint.
But the man in the image is Jake Angeli, a regular at pro-Trump events and a known follower of QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory based on the idea that Trump is secretly fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of child sex traffickers.Angeli’s distinctive tattoos and unique headwear can be seen in a Nov. 7 Associated Press photo at a rally of Trump supporters outside of the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in Phoenix.
In that photo, Angeli held a sign that read, “HOLD THE LINE PATRIOTS GOD WINS.”
In an accompanying AP news article, Angeli was identified as a “regular at pro-Trump rallies who typically wears a wooly fur hat with horns.” When news broke that Biden had been declared the winner of the presidential content, the AP reported that Angeli called out, “This election has not been called!” He told the AP that he was still hopeful for the president. “Trump always looks like he’s going to lose. And then he wins,” Angeli said.
Some social media posters pointed to a cropped photo of Angeli from a previous protest to claim it was evidence he was in fact with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This guy is from Arizona. Here is a photo I took of him at the Tempe BLM march in June,” read a screenshot that was widely shared on Twitter. The accompanying photo showed Angeli in the foreground and a crowd with an anti-police sign in the background.
Social media users seized upon the post to claim it was evidence the people inside the Capitol were left-wing infiltrators.
But Brett Lewis, who had first shared the photo on Twitter, clarified to the AP that he had observed Angeli disrupting the Black Lives Matter event in June, not participating in it. Lewis said Angeli was “trying to spread Q disinformation and cause a distraction and disruption from the speakers at the event.”
An uncropped photo from the June event shows Angeli’s sign read, “Q SENT ME,” a reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The AP reached out to Angeli on one of his social media accounts but did not hear back.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536