The American judiciary accuses the founder and ten members of the Oath Keepers of a “seditious conspiracy”. The indictment shows how the extremists planned a “bloody revolution” on January 6th.
After the storming of the Capitol on January 6th a year ago, the American judiciary has indicted more than 700 people. As a rule, however, they were only accused of attacking police officers, illegally entering a state building or obstructing the processes of parliament. Of the around 70 people convicted so far, only around 30 have received a prison sentence. The longest of these is 5 years and 3 months.
This circumstance strengthened the supporters of President Donald Trump, who was voted out of office, in their opinion that the events of a year ago were merely a harmless demonstration that spontaneously got out of hand. There was an undisciplined mob and a few acts of vandalism, but no riots, said Republican MP Andrew Clyde at a congressional hearing in May. Many pictures of the Capitol strikers, who often walked through the halls of Parliament with their cell phones out, could not be made differ from those of a «normal tourist visit».
“We must carry out a bloody revolution”
On Thursday, however, the FBI arrested Stewart Rhodes, founder of the militant Oath Keepers. The Justice Department sued him and ten members of his organization for «seditious conspiracy» on. The fact of the «seditious conspiracy» U.S. law is when two or more people join forces to violently overthrow the government, to prevent the enactment of a law, or to take possession of government property. It can carry up to 20 years in prison.
Rhodes, a former military man and graduate of the prestigious Yale University, founded his organization back in 2009 and over the years Thousands of former, but also active police officers and soldiers recruited across the country. Rhodes thought he was in a struggle against tyrannical, socialist and Marxist forces in Washington, who wanted to suppress the rights of Americans. Rhodes has long warned of an impending civil war in the United States. And as can now be seen from the indictment against him and his comrades-in-arms, he saw Trump’s election defeat on November 3, 2020 as the time to do it: “We will not overcome this without civil war. It’s too late for that. Adjust your head, body and mind,” Rhodes wrote in a chat two days after Election Day.
Shortly thereafter, Rhodes sent out instructions for a revolt to his comrades-in-arms. He was guided by the fall of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 the course of which angry demonstrators left Parliament stormed. On December 22, Rhodes, who lost an eye in a shooting accident and is therefore wearing an eye patch, was even clearer: “We all have to make a bloody, very bloody revolution. That has to happen.”
Armory and reinforcements on the outskirts
By the end of December at the latest, Rhodes and his co-defendants were discussing preparations for January 6, when Congress wanted to certify the election of Joe Biden, in various chat groups via the encrypted messenger app Signal. One of these groups was entitled “DC OP: JAN 6 21”. But before that, in November, Oath keeper Thomas Caldwell reportedly made a trip to Washington to explore options for surgery. It was therefore also Caldwell who found a hotel in Arlington – on the southern outskirts of the capital – where the Oath Keepers are said to have stored weapons for January 6 and “rapid reaction troops” from various member states are said to have quartered there.
Dressed in camouflage suits and hard hats, the Oath Keepers took part in the storming of the Capitol. A group is said to have searched unsuccessfully for Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives. All in all, more members of the organization were present on January 6 than are now responsible for the proceedings. Defendant Jessica Watkins radioed: “It’s spreading like wildfire that we [Vizepräsident] pence cheated. Everyone marches to the Capitol. We have 30 to 40 people. We’ll stay together and stick to the plan.”
It will now have to be seen whether the evidence of the prosecution can stand up in court and whether further such proceedings will possibly be opened. The Oath Keepers were ultimately just one of several militant right-wing groups involved in the storming of the Capitol. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the Jan. 6 commission of inquiry, expects more charges of this nature: “There will be many more to come soon,” he said the television channel CNN.
A legal question that is still completely open is that of Trump’s own responsibility for the violence. On January 6, he called on his followers to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for their country. The President then went back to the White House to watch the spectacle on television. A chat message from Rhodes shortly before the storming of Parliament makes it clear that he had expected more: “Trump only complains. I see no intention of doing anything. The patriots are taking it into their own hands. You’ve had enough.”