BROOKE GLADSTONE From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone. This week marks 6 months since January 6th, the day a pro-Trump mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol.
PRO-TRUMP MOB Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!
[MAN SPEAKS INTELLIGIBLY ON LOUDSPEAKER].
[GLASS SHATTERS IN CAPITOL RIOT AS RIOTERS SHOUT] [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Over 500 rioters have since been arrested, but the legal consequences of what they did are only just beginning to roll in.
NEWS REPORT A local woman has been sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge in connection to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Anna Morgan Lloyd is from Bloomfield. She was sentenced to three years probation and 120 hours of community service. [END CLIP].
NEWS REPORT The first guilty plea, John Ryan Schaffer of member of the Oath Keepers, the far right paramilitary group pleading guilty to obstruction and entering the building with a dangerous weapon. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Certainly time and distance has brought some clarity and perspective, but each step toward truth has been buffeted by Republican members of Congress.
REP MATT GAETZ Some of the people who breached the Capitol today, were masquerading as Trump supporters, and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa.
REP PAUL GOSAR The truth is being censored and covered up. As a result, the DOJ is harassing peaceful patriots across the country.
REP ANDREW CLYDE Let me be clear. There was no insurrection, and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold faced lie. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
NEWS REPORT That effort to create a bipartisan independent commission investigating the attack that took place at the Capitol on January 6th has failed.
SEN. MASTO On this vote. The yeas are 54, the nays are 35. The motion is not agreed to. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Absent a formal commission, the press has to look to emerging clues from the complex investigations into the militias and extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters who participated in the breach, which is very likely why those efforts have become the target of Tucker Carlson's peculiarly spurious logic.
TUCKER CARLSON But strangely, some of the key people who participated on January 6th have not been charged. Look at the documents. The government calls those people unindicted co-conspirators. What does that mean? Well, it means that in potentially every single case, they were FBI operatives. So FBI operatives were organizing the attack on the Capitol. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Come on, Tucker! We all know what we saw that day. Though the TV cameras certainly didn't capture everything. The week after the insurrection, we brought you the story of an Oath Keeper named Jessica Watkins, who secretly communicated with other militia members as she marched towards the east entrance of the Capitol.
JESSICA WATKINS We have a good group. We got about 30, 40 of us sticking together and sticking to the plan.
MAN 1 Be safe. Be safe. God bless and Godspeed and keep going.
MAN 2 Get it, Jess. Do your shit. This is what we've lived up for. Everything we f*cking trained for. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE And eventually inside.
JESSICA WATKINS We are in the mess, we are in the main dome right now, we are rocking and throwing grenades there and shit people with paintballs, but we're in here. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE She was speaking over a walkie talkie app called Zello, unaware that our reporter Micah Loewinger was listening in. The sound he captured is now being used by the Justice Department in its conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers, the largest criminal trial of the lot. Micah had no clue who Watkins was or what she was planning that day, but he had been tracking this type of militia communication for over a year. We asked him to revisit and update his Zello reporting to chart how the right wing paramilitaries use the app to lead a violent coup attempt and where the movement might be headed next.
MICAH LOEWINGER When I recorded that Oath Keeper tape on January 6th, it wasn't by chance. I'd begun monitoring militias on Zello way back in the fall of 2019. Not to understand how these groups stormed government buildings, but to hear how they stormed storms...
NEWS REPORT And we begin with the relentless threat from Hurricane Dorian rapidly strengthening over the past 24 hours to a monster category 5... [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER I was looking into this idea for an On the Media story based on a pattern I'd seen emerge during hurricane season. In 2017, as Irma and Harvey ripped through the news cycle, Zello exploded in popularity.
NEWS REPORT Zello, the Internet walkie talkie app, is the number one free app, according to iTunes.
NEWS REPORT It's the primary source of communication for members of the Louisiana Cajun Navy,
NEWS REPORT civilian volunteers, including a Facebook community of hunters and fishermen throwing their boats on the back of Four-Wheel Drive trucks and rescuing people from completely different towns. It's an extension of a movement founded during Hurricane Katrina. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER Just like with past storms, copycat rescue groups sprung up all across the internet to monitor Dorian as it careened towards the East Coast.
ONE PERCENT WATCHDOG Guys don't get complacent. It's the calm before the storm. So tonight you can expect even tornadoes to touch down and all kinds of crazy stuff.
MICAH LOEWINGER This is a guy who goes by the name One Percent Watchdog. He's the leader of a Zello group called the United States Civilian Force, or USCF. They ran the biggest Dorian storm relief channel that I could find at the time featuring several hundred people.
ONE PERCENT WATCHDOG Those who want to volunteer to go to Zello.com, forward slash, training.
MICAH LOEWINGER They seem to have a pretty sophisticated operation going, but there was also something else notable about One Percent Watchdog and USCF, his podcast and social media were filled with anti-government and Infowars type conspiracy videos.
ONE PERCENT WATCHDOG This is part three on our coverage of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, mass shooting. To those of you who are thinking this is a false flag, it might be. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER He also had this rap song.
ONE PERCENT WATCHDOG [RAPPING] We got the bill of rights and our guns too. They think they’re coming for us, I say we’re coming for you! [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER The USCF Facebook group advocated for mass deportations of undocumented migrants, and there was something about their combination of humanitarian aid and xenophobia that struck me as a contradiction. But when I brought that up, he and his group strongly disagreed.
ONE PERCENT WATCHDOG Are you guys so sick that you think someone's drowning in a hurricane and they need rescue, that we're going to say show us your papers?
A.J. ANDREWS Yes, I wear a Trump hat. Yes, I believe in the wall. Yes, I believe in people coming here the right way, I have no problem with it. But if shit hits the fan and somebody needs help, I'm not going to ask for your papers first. I'm gonna to help you.
MICAH LOEWINGER That second voice is a guy named A.J. Andrews. His profile featured a photo of him wearing a Confederate hat. I initially reached out to him to learn more about One Percent Watchdog. A.J. had collaborated with him for years, but he didn't know his real name or where he lived. Anyway, A.J. was much more interested in talking about his own local militia based in western New York and how they used Zello. He ended up inviting me to hang out with them at Lobby Day, a gun rally in Richmond, Virginia, on January 20th, 2020.
NEWS REPORT Monday's rally comes in response to three new gun control bills.
LAURA INGRAHAM Gov. Ralph “Blackface” Northam downplaying Democrats plans to strip people of their Second Amendment right.
NEWS REPORT Pretty disturbing. The governor used the phrase storming of the Capitol for what is possible on Monday. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER A.J. told me to meet him in a parking lot a few miles from where thousands of right-wing protesters had assembled outside the Virginia Capitol building.
MICAH, IN VIRGINIA Holy moly, it's cold out. Currently looking for A.J.'s RV.
MICAH LOEWINGER This was my first time at this sort of event, which is probably why I didn't think twice about wearing my black winter coat with black skinny jeans, just about begging someone to label me as Antifa.
A.J. ANDREWS Skinny jeans, and then dressed like that, you look a lot like the ANTIFA.
MICAH, IN VIRGINIA Damnit!
MICAH LOEWINGER we ended up spending the whole day in his blue and white RV, what he calls his mobile command center, because it's incredibly decked out.
A.J. ANDREWS 450 watts of solar around the roof goes down to a 690 amp hour battery into a 6000 watt sine wave converter to give me full power sitting here in the camper.
MICAH LOEWINGER A satellite set up so that he can broadcast wi-fi to other militias that want to come and hang out.
A.J. ANDREWS 20 USB hookups, a CB with a built-in police scanner to it. I've got ham radio that becomes a mobile repeater,
MICAH LOEWINGER Enough food for 6 months.
A.J. ANDREWS Full medical in here. I've got security in here if I need to pull it out of the cupboard.
MICAH LOEWINGER He is preparing for the apocalypse or as he would put it for SHTF, which stands for "when sh*t hits the fan”.
A.J. ANDREWS I've got a team of folks from all over the country watching different cameras, this, that and the other. And I'm in contact with them all the time.
MICAH LOEWINGER He met up with his militia here, most of his guys, I only saw like 5 or 6 of them, but I heard there were more, were headed down to the actual rally. But A.J. hung back in the parking lot watching a Breitbart livestream.
BRIETBART It's how the media works. The media is the greatest threat to American freedom.
MICAH LOEWINGER He was more than just the eyes and ears of the operation. He was the commander of the QRF, the quick reaction force. Say he saw violence breaking out or he caught wind of some other credible threat against his guys,
A.J. ANDREWS I make a call. I got everybody from 20 miles to 100 miles ready to be here in a second.
MICAH LOEWINGER A.J. identifies as a member of the Three Percenters movement, a primary force in the paramilitary right. I say movement because it's more of an idea or a rallying cry than it is a centralized national organization. People like A.J. who are inspired by it can just start their own Three Percent cells. That name, Three Percent, refers to a myth, a disputed historical statistic about the Revolutionary War.
A.J. ANDREWS Three percent of the first 13 colonies fought for, died for, bled for our Constitution. Then they helped write that constitution, put it into play. For everybody to have their rights and their freedoms in this country. Britain wanted to take our rights away, just like a lot of Democrats and liberals and a lot of socialists want to take the rights now and trade everybody's rights for just their freedoms. Just like you're seeing on Breitbart, if people are watching the live feeds on that. They're saying they're sick of their rights being trampled on.
MICAH LOEWINGER At least four Three Percenters would go on to be charged with conspiracy for breaking into the Capitol on January 6th. Meanwhile, ties between militia and Islamophobic and white supremacist activity have been documented over the past several years, starting in Charlottesville in August 2017.
NEWS REPORT Minutes ago, we saw the first participants in today's Unite the Right Rally, arrive. About 40 men and women in camouflage gear, some with militia markings. Virginia is an open carry state. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER And then there were 3 militia men connected to a local Three Percent group who were convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque in Garden City, Kansas, in 2016.
NEWS REPORT The authorities say the 3 suspects are part of a Kansas militia group that calls itself The Crusaders, [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER which is part of the reason why A.J. led that operation in Richmond, because he wanted to rehabilitate the image of the Three Percenters and the militia movement at large.
A.J. ANDREWS There's nothing wrong with the name militia. If you carry a three percent sticker, oh you got to be a racist, you got to be a nationalist, you got to be – no we're not. We're human, we're American. There's nothing racist about us. We're trying to show everybody that we are adults or responsible adults. Where Northam's trying to say, "oh, the guns shoot people," – no. It's the trigger that pulls it by the person. That's not the gun.
MICAH LOEWINGER The whole time that I sat there with him, he had his earbuds in listening to his militiamen chatting away on Zello.
MAN 1 Turning point in our country, right here. I hear.
MAN 2 This is it man.
MAN 1 Yeah, this is gonna –
MAN 2 This governor we got.
MAN 1 He's pretty bad
MAN 2 The worst person in the world. [END CLIP]
A.J. ANDREWS Everybody's on a channel, on Zello, on phones, on comms, working with each other. And it's one giant network. Every single person with boots on ground is in the network together.
MICAH LOEWINGER About how many people are in your Zello group?
A.J. ANDREWS Close to a thousand right now. And they're involved with their own little groups and it networks out from there. Kind of like a spidered out pyramid.
MICAH LOEWINGER A.J. had kicked me out of his private Zello group a couple of weeks before Richmond, so I was never able to really hear him and his guys talking. But I'd signed on to a bunch of public Zello channels, including one run by One Percent Watchdog. And I had those recordings throughout the day just so I could get a sense of the kind of chatter that was bouncing between militiamen and activists all around Richmond.
MILITIAMEN Is everybody at the rally already or are they on their way. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER On the ground.
MILITIAMEN We're still in route. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER And at home.
MILITIAMEN And watching online. There's a lot of people there. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER Listening back, some of the stuff gave me chills, I mean, this is 12 months before January 6th, and yet the communication strategy and the rhetoric about the politicians in the state House were eerily similar.
MILITIAMEN This is not the time to go in there and be congenial and polite. Time to go in there and kick their asses. If the state troopers get in your way, so be it. Complete the mission and f*ck world up. [END CLIP]
MICAH LOEWINGER Before I met up with A.J., I figured most of these militia guys were all bark and no bite, but speaking with him convinced me that he was dead serious.
A.J. ANDREWS If God says it’s my time to go, it's my time to go. I've been shot, stabbed, burned, born with cancer, diagnosed at 4, still got it throughout my body and nothing's in my organs. I got my sight when I was one, got hearing when I was three, and I shouldn't have been born. So, if I'm alive then there's still a reason. So, I'm still going to do something, there's certain things you got to step up for. People in America got to step up for the rights and the freedoms to keep it alive for the next generation, because without that – we ain't got sh*t.
MICAH LOEWINGER No one was hurt that day, no bullets were fired, but spending time with A.J. opened my eyes to the reality of the American militia movement. He and his guys want it both ways. They were ready to go to war and they have a history of participating in violent, racist, anti-government acts, but at the same time, they want to be seen as a normal part of American life. Patriotic American life. Coming up, how right- wing vigilantism went mainstream. This is On the Media.
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