2 women seen punching people in a viral social media video the night before the pro-Trump attempted coup have been charged with assault

Madison Hall
Therese Duke bloody face after punch protest DC
Therese Duke recovering after being punched in the face by Ashanti Smith at a pro-Trump protest on January 5, 2021. Smith was later charged with assault. FNTV
  • Protests filled the streets of Washington, DC, on January 5, the night before an attempted coup took place at the Capitol building.

  • One protest turned violent after a pro-Trump supporter reached for one person's phone as they recorded the protests, leading to punches thrown. The brawl was recorded and posted to Twitter, where it soon went viral.

  • Two women involved in the scuffle were charged with assault, according to filings in the DC Superior Court.

  • After watching the viral video of the incident, one Twitter user highlighted that several members in the incident were her family members.

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Protests also filled the streets of Washington, DC, on Tuesday - the night before pro-Trump insurrectionists breached the US Capitol building in an attempted coup to protest the final certification of electoral votes by members of Congress.

While the night's protests were not nearly as violent as the insurrection on Wednesday, a brawl broke out that resulted in two assault charges.

In a viral video recorded by Freedom News TV, one woman, Ashanti Smith, is seen holding her cell phone in the middle of a large crowd. According to a court affidavit, Smith had been recording the protests on her phone that night.

At one point, Therese Duke, a pro-Trump protester, appears in the video to reach for Smith's cell phone. The video shows Smith punch Duke in the face.

Smith said Duke approached her several times and she only punched her because she 'feared for her life'

In an interview with Insider, Smith said she's a special police officer for a nearby building. She was on a break when she noticed a large crowd walking down the street and began to live-stream the crowd on Instagram.

Smith said a "heavily intoxicated" woman, who law enforcement identified as Annie Lorenz, tried to befriend her. In the video on Twitter, it appears Lorenz is holding an open can of beer, which could violate DC's open container laws, but she wasn't charged with any crimes related to that.

After turning down Lorenz's friendship invitation and telling her she didn't support President Donald Trump or President-elect Joe Biden, Smith said she was accused of being a member of Antifa. Smith said Duke then told her she "deserved to be killed" and "deserved to die."

Smith alleges that Duke tried to grab Smith's phone, and she feared she was being robbed so she quickly tried to move closer to the police for protection.

Soon after, a police officer escorted Smith away from the group that had begun to surround her - it was at this point that Smith reported the harassment to the police. Then protesters surrounded Smith once again. She said she had asked them to move away as none in the crowd were wearing masks, but then an unknown person spit on her.

Smith said she began to hear chants from the crowd calling for her to be hung when Duke attempted to grab at her phone for a second time and tried to pull down Smith's mask. With the angry crowd surrounding her, Smith said she began to fear for her life and punched Duke before stepping away.

Following the punch, Smith is seen being pushed by the pro-Trump protesters to a nearby line of police. She said she lost a pair of headphones and one of her shoes during the scuffle, but was later able to recover the items.

The viral Twitter video shows Smith speaking with police before being punched from behind by Lorenz, leading to pepper spray being deployed by the police. Smith said she was inadvertently sprayed in the face, as well.

Smith said she spoke with a detective later that evening who told her that she was the victim of a hate crime. Five minutes after taking down her information, Smith alleges, the detective returned and handcuffed her before escorting her into a vehicle without being told her Miranda rights.

Both Smith and Lorenz were charged with assault stemming from the incident, according to court documents from the DC Superior Court.

Smith said she has since been suspended indefinitely from her security job as her office investigates the event. She is scheduled for a court hearing in June.

A young woman said she's related to people in the video, and the story gets wilder from there

Immediately following the altercation, the video was posted to Twitter and soon went viral, receiving more than 100,000 likes.

In response, Helena Duke, 18, announced on Twitter that her mother was the woman Smith punched, and had previously told Helena to avoid going to Black Lives Matter protests out of concern for her safety.

She also identified her mother, uncle, and Anne Lorenz: Helena's aunt.

Ashanti smith, anne lorenz, therese duke
Anne Lorenz, Ashanti Smith, and Therese Duke (identified by her daughter Helena Duke) brawled during a pro-Trump protest on January 5, 2021 - the night before pro-Trump insurrectionists breached the US Capitol in an attempted coup. Smith and Lorenz were later charged with assault. FNTV

"I was shocked when I first saw her tweets," Smith said. "It was surprising, I appreciated the fact that she and her friends were actually supporting me and sending love."

Helena noted in a separate tweet that as "the liberal lesbian of the family," she had been kicked out of the home multiple times for her political views.

Helena affirmed the statements in her tweets in an interview with Insider. She said her mother told her that Black Lives Matter protests were dangerous and incited violence. Helena said Therese wouldn't let her attend Black Lives Matter rallies in Central Massachusetts, but that Helena still went.

"When she [Therese Duke] found out about it, she told me that if I was going to be doing those things, I was not allowed to be under her roof," Helena Duke said. "I was kicked out for about two weeks."

Helena said her mother had told her she was accompanying Lorenz to get a medical procedure during the time of the attempted coup. When Helena noticed her mother's cell phone location tracking had been turned off, she grew concerned.

She did not know her mother was in Washington, DC, until the morning after the assault took place - Helena got a text from her cousin with the video of her mother being punched in the face.

"I asked her where she was and she never answered that," Helena Duke said. "Then I asked her how her nose was and that was the last of that conversation."

After identifying her mother, aunt, and uncle in a separate viral post on Twitter, Helena said she began to receive threats from her mother and aunt.

"Both of them had contacted me, tried to repeatedly call me, and texted me that they are going to press charges against me and to say goodbye to my college, say goodbye to my career, and say goodbye to my life," Duke said.

Helena told Insider that her parents are divorced, and while she normally spends her time with Therese, she is now living with her father. Since the tweets went viral, Helena said she received a text threat from an unknown number that simply said "watch your back."

But Helena said the online response has otherwise been kind and supportive.

"A bunch of people I obviously didn't know have opened up their doors up to me [and] have told me that what I did inspired them because they've been through similar situations," Helena said.

Anne Lorenz and Therese Duke did not answer Insider's request for comment.

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