A prominent activist in the Stop the Steal movement who spoke at a rally held by backers of President Donald Trump in Washington the day before the storming of the Capitol was arrested on Monday on charges that he took part in the riot.
Brandon Straka, 44, was arrested on a felony charge of interfering with police during civil disorder. The self-described founder of a movement to “walk away” from liberalism was also charged with unlawful entry into a restricted building and disorderly conduct.
An FBI agent’s affidavit used to obtain a criminal complaint against Straka describes his role as an organizer of Stop the Steal and quotes his comments at the Jan. 5 rally held at Freedom Plaza, but doesn’t indicate 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 that videos revealed that during the melee, Straka was part of a crowd pushing toward a Capitol doorway. 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!”
Straka achieved some prominence in the media during Trump’s effort to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Straka spoke at a variety of previous 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 scuttled 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 also told the attendees to “fight back” and added, “We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!” the agent reported.
In media appearances, Straka described himself as a Manhattan-based, gay ex-liberal. He and his “#walkaway” tagline became a favorite in some conservative quarters in the past couple of years, featured on programs such as the "Judge Jeanine" show on Fox News.
Court records show the criminal complaint against Straka was approved by a federal magistrate judge in Washington last Tuesday.
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