ExtremismExtremists, Old and New, Face Uncertain Future Following 6 January Insurrection

Published 19 February 2021

An examination of the records of 212 of the more than 250 people arrested by the police for taking part in the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, shows that only 25 percent of those arrested were affiliated with extremist groups such as Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. The other 75 percent appear to be the product years of lies and repeated conspiracy theories being circulated and amplified within a nearly hermetically sealed ecosphere of disinformation, fertilized by conspiratorial radio personalities, TV channels competing with each other in their support for Donald Trump, and Trump’s own unrelenting torrent of falsehoods with which he has fed his followers. We may be seeing a new breed of extremists, foundationally animated more by a devotion to Trump than a commitment to a specific ideology or party.

It’s been more than a month since a horde of extremists forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, protesting the outcome of a national election and intent on disrupting a time-honored democratic process. At least five people died during the violent attack, including one Capitol Police officer.

ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) has identified 212 of the roughly 800 individuals who are believed to have breached the building on 6 January. The emerging snapshot of the insurrectionists shows a range of right-wing extremists united by their fury with the perceived large-scale betrayal by “unprincipled” Republican legislators.

Of the 212 individuals identified by COE, 52 (or 25 percent) have ties to known right-wing extremist groups, including Oath Keepers (six people), Proud Boys (17), Groypers and other white supremacists (10) and the QAnon conspiracy theory (14). A number of Proud Boys members and Oath Keepers have been charged with conspiracy in connection with the January 6 insurrection. A conspiracy charge means the government believes these individuals agreed to engage in criminal activity that day.

The remaining 75 percent are considered part of the new pro-Trump extremist movement, a decentralized but enthusiastic faction made up of self-described “patriots” who continue to pledge their fidelity to the former President.

According to the current ADL data, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia are represented among the insurrectionists, demonstrating the national reach of disinformation and propaganda that fueled the January 6 attack. The country’s five most populous states (TX, CA, NY, FL and PA) accounted for 41% of the total individuals ADL has identified in the attack, with the most hailing from California and Texas.

President Biden’s inauguration gave many of these groups a new focus. Weeks later, how are they responding to the dawning reality and permanence of Donald Trump’s loss and departure? What can we expect from them in the coming months?

Proud Boys
Proud Boys were disproportionately represented in the Capitol siege demographic, and at least three members, Nicholas Ochs, William Pepe and Dominic Pezzola, have been charged with conspiracy in connection with the insurrection.

The group has been going through a rough patch in the weeks since 6 January. Members share other right-wing groups’ fury with the Republican party; a growing number of members appear to support a “third way” or alternative party.