The US Department of Justice has issued the first ‘seditious conspiracy’ charges over the storming of the Capitol Building on 6 January 2021. Stewart Rhodes, leader of the far-right militia group The Oath Keepers, has been charged along with 10 collaborators.
The Justice Department investigation of 6 January is the largest in its history, and the seditious conspiracy charges are the most serious to date. So far, over 700 people have been charged over 6 January, with 186 having already pled guilty, mostly to rioting charges.
The Oath Keepers indictment alleges the group aimed to intimidate Congress into not certifying the election of Joe Biden as president. Internal messages from the group said it will be “torches and pitchforks time” and that they would “scare the shit out of Congress.”
The Oath Keepers focuses recruitment on current and former members of the police and armed forces. Members swear to “fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’”
The indictment alleges the group ran “paramilitary” training and tactics sessions in the weeks before 6 January. They also allegedly brought “paramilitary gear, weapons, and supplies…to the Capitol grounds.”
“We must now do what the people of Serbia did when Milosevic stole their election,” Rhodes wrote to Oath Keepers’ members. “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.”
These are the first seditious conspiracy charges issued since members of the Christian militia group Hutaree were charged in 2010. Before that, the most recent were charges following the 1993 World Trade Center attack in New York.
Seditious conspiracy charges are considered hard to prove at trial. They demand proving not only intent, but also that the plans were more than “just talk.”
Investigators have been aided by the loose-knit nature of the Oath Keepers. Their members reside in states from all over the US and primarily organised 6 January on Signal and other digital platforms.
The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 following the election of Barack Obama, when they perceived the United States would be subject to “imminent tyranny.” Its leader is a former paratrooper turned Republican party staffer and Yale law graduate.
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Feature image courtesy of @lgnwvr via Unsplash.