Amid the crackdown on violent messaging among Trump supporters online, there is growing concern in the US there will be more unrest and possible attacks in the lead up to Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
Social media giants have been working to limit the spread of violent rhetoric with Twitter suspending accounts responsible for violent calls to arms, largely from far-right disaffected Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracy adherents.
Alternative social media service Parler, favoured by conservatives for not censoring far-right provocateurs, faces an uncertain future after Apple and Google booted it from their app stores and Amazon Web Services dropped it, meaning the site faces an uphill battle to stay online.
With the fracturing of their online world, many ardent Trump supporters are scrambling to stay connected on various platforms – as some continue to vow future acts of violence.
“Many of Us will return on January 19, 2021, carrying Our weapons, in support of Our nation's resolve, towhich [sic] the world will never forget!!!" one person wrote on Parler.
“We will come in numbers that no standing army or police agency can match.”
Countless other similar posts – including from users with sizeable followings – have been proliferating.
Alethea Group, an organisation that works to detect and combat online disinformation, analysed the threat and found many in public forums, says Cindy Otis, the company’s VP of analysis and former CIA agent.
“[Alethea] tracked plans on mainstream and fringe platforms to commit violence ahead of the inauguration in DC and across the US,” she wrote on Twitter on Monday.
“Much of the tactical planning is happening in closed spaces, but events are already being advertised right out in the open.”
Locations for apparent demonstrations include a return to the US Capitol as well as the Mall in Washington, while one post cited by Alethea promoted a “ARMED MARCH ON CAPITOL HILL & ALL STATE CAPITOLS” for January 17, the final Sunday of Trump’s presidency.
Google Maps pictures were shared by some plotting another apparent assault on the Capitol.
White supremacists, QAnon adherents among riot mob
Extensive analysis by the Associated Press of arrest reports, court filings and social media posts has revealed that white nationalists, criminals, Republican officials and followers of a mass online delusion known as QAnon made up much of the crowd.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump tweeted a week before Christmas. “Be there, will be wild!”
The insurrectionist mob that showed up at the president’s behest and stormed the US Capitol was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, members of the military and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals.
Records show that some were heavily armed and included convicted criminals, such as a Florida man recently released from prison for attempted murder.
The AP reviewed social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records for more than 120 people either facing criminal charges related to the January 6 unrest or who, going maskless amid the pandemic, were later identified through photographs and videos taken during the melee.
The evidence gives lie to claims by right-wing pundits and Republican officials – as well as two Australian government MPs Craig Kelly and George Christensen – that the violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.
Many of the rioters identified took to social media after the November election to retweet and parrot false and baseless claims by Trump that the vote had been stolen in a vast international conspiracy.
Several had openly threatened violence against Democrats and Republicans they considered insufficiently loyal to the president. During the riot, some livestreamed and posted photos of themselves at the Capitol. Afterwards, many bragged about what they had done.
Two female Trump supporters who died - Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego and Rosanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia - were followers of QAnon, a common theme among rioters, the AP found.
So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanour curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Many more arrested are expected to come.
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