A self-described ex-liberal activist from New York was arrested Monday in connection with the US Capitol riot.
Brandon Straka, 44, was taken into custody on Monday on a felony charge of interfering with police during civil disorder, and illegal entry and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds, The Washington Post reported.
Straka who is most famous for founding the #WalkAway Campaign to encourage people to leave the Democratic Party spoke at the Stop the Steal rally held by backers of President Donald Trump in Washington the day before the storming of the Capitol.
An FBI agent’s affidavit describes Straka as an organizer of Stop the Steal and quotes his comments at the Jan. 5 rally held at Freedom Plaza the day before the Jan. 6 riot. It is unclear whether the government views those activities as context for his actions at the Capitol or part of the alleged crimes.
FBI Special Agent Jeremy Desor said videos revealed that Straka was part of a mob of Trump supporters pushing toward a Capitol doorway during the siege, however Desor doesn’t contend that Straka went into the building, but says that as others tried to charge through the entrance, the activist shouted: “Go! Go!”
Desor said that as a Capitol police officer tried to make his way through the crowd with a riot shield over his head, Straka urged others to wrestle it from him.
“Take it away from him,” Straka allegedly yelled. “Take it! Take it!”
After the election, Straka spoke at a variety of Stop the Steal events at the Capitol, in Michigan and elsewhere. According to the complaint, he said he was supposed to speak at such a rally at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but that event was cancelled after the riot broke out and police cleared the crowd.
During his speech the day before the riot, Straka referred to the audience as “patriots” and referred repeatedly to a “revolution,” Desor said. Straka “told the attendees to ‘fight back’ and ended by saying, ‘We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!’” the court documents state.
Straka, who has described himself as a Manhattan-based, gay ex-liberal, has reportedly since claimed that he saw “nobody committing any acts of violence” or vandalism on 6 January and that the supporters were able to file into the Capitol.