Who Are the Oath Keepers? Former Employee Testifies About ‘Violent Militiaat Capitol Riots

Who Are the Oath Keepers? Former Employee Testifies About 'Violent Militia' at Capitol Riots

a gennaio. 6, 2021, as a mob of loyal Donald Trump supporters ascended the steps of the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Joe Biden from becoming president, members of far-right extremists groups with violent tendencies could be seen in attendance.

One of those groups, il Oath Keepers, claimed to be participating in the insurrection to defend the Constitution, arguing that Democrats had attempted a coup first by engaging in election fraud. (Widespread fraud never actually occurred, according to several officials who investigated the conspiracies thoroughly and deemed the election fair.)

Inspired by Trump’s call for help in defeating Biden through a show of force on Jan. 6, the Oath Keepers arrived in D.C. with tactical gear and an arsenal of weapons, contributing to the deadly mayhem of that day.

Martedì, the House committee investigating the Rivolte al Campidoglio explored how Trump riled extremists and fervent followers to engage in illegal activity at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

To demonstrate the intentions of people who traveled to D.C. on his behalf, the committee brought in Jason Van Tatenhove, former national media director for the Oath Keepers, to explain under oath the mentality behind the group.

I spent a few years with the Oath Keepers, and I can tell you that they may not like to call themselves a militia, but they are. They are a violent militia,” said Van Tatenhove, who considers himself a former employee — not a former member — of the group.

Lui continuò: “I think the best illustration for what the Oath Keepers are happened Jan. 6, when we saw that stacked military formation going up the stairs of the Capitol.

Van Tatenhove told the committee how he got involved with the vigilante militia — and why he left the organization not long after.

As an independent journalist, Van Tatenhove covered Oath Keepersstandoffs with the government. After appearing at three separate standoffs, he said the group approached him with a job offer to serve as national media director and associate editor for the website.

The more Van Tatenhove got to know members of the group, anche se, the more uncomfortable he felt. He described to lawmakers a sense of white nationalism running rampant through the organization, and alleged some members werestraight-up racists.

The straw that broke the camel’s backand made him realize he needed to cut ties with the group, ha testimoniato, was when he heard a group of Oath Keepers talking openly in a grocery storeabout how the Holocaust was not real.

Though he was not wealthy —barely surviving,” in his own words — he said it didn’t matter. He went home to his wife and kids and told them he needed out and would figure out a plan to make money after quitting.

Acting as a spokesperson for the Oath Keepers, Van Tatenhove worked closely with the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, who was charged this year with seditious conspiracy for allegedly planning to use force to oppose a governmental process. (A filmmaker captured footage of Rhodes meeting with the leader of another far-right hate group, il Proud Boys, in a parking garage the night before the riots.) Van Tatenhove called Rhodes amilitia leader.

He had these grand visions of being a paramilitary leader. And the insurrection act would have given him a path forward with that,” the former spokesperson said. Eagerly awaiting a chance to act with violence, Van Tatenhove testified based on his observations, Rhodes likely saw Trump’s tweets encouraging supporters to step in and help as anodthat it was time to escalate.

Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last in June 2022 to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, sinistra, and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Giusto, are sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacco agli Stati Uniti. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Martedì, luglio 12, 2022.

Stephen Ayres, who pleaded guilty last in June 2022 to disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, sinistra, and Jason Van Tatenhove, an ally of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, Giusto, are sworn in to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacco agli Stati Uniti. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Martedì, luglio 12, 2022.
Capitol rioter Stephen Ayres and former Oath Keepers employee Jason Van Tatenhove are sworn in to testify
| Credito: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

While Van Tatenhove was not at the Capitol riots, nor was he associated with the Oath Keepers at the time of the riots, his testimony shed light on a violent, long-building movement that the Jan. 6 committee argues was fueled by Trump’s rhetoric throughout his presidency, culminating in an eventual insurrection that led to loss of life.

Testifying alongside Van Tatenhove was Stephen Ayres, a man who did storm the Capitol and recently pleaded guilty to a federal charge of disorderly conduct. Ayres was not associated with any extremist groups, but heeded Trump’s call to travel to Washington andstop the steal.

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Ayresreasoning for participating in the riot, ha testimoniato, was that Trump had convinced him the election was stolen and asked him to defend the integrity of the country: “We basically were just following what he said.

He said that listening to Trump that day changed his life, “definitely not for the better,” and that the damage caused by the mob forced him to take a step away from social media and realize he had been lied to.

Van Tatenhove said that he fears the 2024 election cycle with the division in America today, worried about what it will bring after seeing how people — and groups like the Oath Keepers — reacted to the 2020 elezione.

I think we’ve gotten exceedingly lucky that more bloodshed did not happen because the potential has been there from the start,” Van Tatenhove said. “This could have been the spark that started a new civil war, and no one would have won there.