Four men described as leaders of the far-right group Proud Boys have been indicted in the riots at the U.S. Capitol, as an indictment ordered opened on Friday presents new evidence of how federal officials believe that members planned and carried out a coordinated attack to prevent Congress from certifying Joe. Biden’s electoral victory.
At least 19 leaders, members or associates of the neo-fascist Proud Boys have been charged in federal court with crimes related to the January 6 riots, which resulted in five deaths.
The latest indictment suggests that the Proud Boys deployed a much larger contingent in Washington, with more than 60 users “participating in” an encrypted messaging channel for members of the group created a day earlier.
The Proud Boys abandoned a previous channel and created the new Boots on the Ground channel after police arrested the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, in Washington. Tarrio was arrested on January 4 and charged with vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic black church during a protest in December. He was ordered to stay out of the District of Columbia.
Tarrio has not been charged in connection with the riots, but the latest indictment refers to him by his title as president of the Proud Boys.
Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs, two of the four defendants in the latest indictment, were arrested several weeks ago on separate but related charges. The new indictment also charges Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe.
The four defendants are charged with conspiring to prevent the electoral college’s vote certification. Other charges in the indictment include obstruction of official procedure, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disturbances, and disorderly conduct.
Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, was president of the Proud Boys chapter and a member of the group’s national Council of Elders. Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida, describes himself as an organizer for the Proud Boys. Rehl, 35, of Philadelphia, and Donohoe, 33, of North Carolina, are presidents of local Proud Boys chapters, according to the indictment.
An attorney for Biggs declined to comment. Attorneys for the other three men did not immediately respond to messages.
Members of the Proud Boys, which describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists,” have engaged in street fights with anti-fascist activists at rallies and protests. Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, who founded Proud Boys in 2016, sued the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling it a hate group.
The Proud Boys gathered at the Washington Monument around 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 and marched to the Capitol before then-President Donald Trump finished addressing thousands of supporters near the White House.
About two hours later, just before Congress called a joint session to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd that broke through barriers at a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds, the indictment says. Several Proud Boys entered the Capitol building after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
At 3.38 pm, Donohoe announced on the “Boots on the Ground” channel that he and others were “regrouping with a second force” when some rioters began to leave the Capitol, according to the indictment.
“This was not simply a march. This was an incredible attack on our institutions of government, ”said Assistant United States Attorney Jason McCullough at a recent hearing in the Nordean case.
Prosecutors have said the Proud Boys arranged for the members to communicate using Baofeng radios. Devices made in China can be programmed for use on hundreds of frequencies, making it difficult for outsiders to eavesdrop.
After Tarrio’s arrest, Donohoe expressed concern that encrypted communications could be “compromised” when police searched the group’s president’s phone, according to the new indictment. In a January 4 post on a newly created channel, Donohoe warned members that they might be “looking at the gang charges” and wrote: “Stop everything immediately,” the indictment says.
“This comes from above,” he added.
The day before the riots, Biggs posted on Boots on the Ground that the group had a “plan” for the night before and the day of the riots, according to the indictment.
In the Nordean case, a federal judge accused prosecutors of backtracking on their claims that he instructed members of the Proud Boys to divide into smaller groups and directed a “strategic plan” to break down the Capitol.
“That’s a far cry from what I heard at the hearing today,” US District Judge Beryl Howell said March 3.
Howell concluded that Nordean was heavily involved in “pre-planning” for the events of January 6 and that he and the other Proud Boys “were clearly prepared for a violent confrontation.” However, he said the evidence that Nordean ordered other members of the Proud Boys to break into the building is “weak to say the least” and ordered his release from jail before trial.
On Friday, Howell ordered that Christopher Worrell, a member of the Proud Boys, be detained in federal custody pending trial on charges related to riots. Prosecutors say Worrell traveled to Washington and coordinated with the Proud Boys before the siege.
Using tactical gear and armed with a canister of pepper spray gel that is marketed as 67 times more powerful than hot sauce, Worrell stepped forward, took cover behind a wooden platform and other protesters, and unloaded the gel in the line of officers, “prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorney John Pierce argued that his client did not target the officers and was only there in the crowd to exercise his right to free speech.
“He is a veteran. He loves his country, ”Pierce said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism