The roundup of Capitol rioters continued on Friday with federal indictments against four leaders of the far-right Proud Boys, who were accused of plotting an insurrection to stop lawmakers from certifying President Biden’s election win.
Not even the arrest of top leader Enrique Tarrio days before the unrest was enough to discourage Proud Boys members from their mission of chaos, authorities said. Group members just simply abandoned an encrypted messaging channel and created a new one a day before the riots, according to the indictment.
They called the new channel “Boots on the Ground.”
Armed with their secret connection link, the Proud Boys members met at the Washington Monument around 10 a.m. on Jan. 6 and marched to the Capitol, where officials said they were egged on by then-President Donald Trump, who urged his supporters to “fight like hell” while repeating unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.
Around two hours later, as lawmakers gathered to certify the election results, a group of Proud Boys followed a crowd of people who breached barriers surrounding the Capitol grounds, the indictment says.
Several Proud Boys also entered the Capitol building itself after the mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
“This was not simply a march,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said during a hearing for one of the defendants, Ethan Nordean. “This was an incredible attack on our institutions of government.”
Nordean was charged along with Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe. Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, was a Proud Boys chapter president and member of the group’s national “Elders Council.”
Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Florida, is a self-described Proud Boys organizer. Rehl, 35, of Philadelphia, and Donohoe, 33, of North Carolina, serve as presidents of their local Proud Boys chapters, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said the encrypted channel chatter indicated a coordinated assault plan.
At 3:38 p.m., Donohoe announced on the “Boots on the Ground” channel that he and others were “regrouping with a second force” as some rioters began to leave the Capitol, according to the indictment.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said the Proud Boys participants “were clearly prepared for a violent confrontation,” but that evidence that they planned to break into the building was “weak.”
All four defendants are charged with conspiring to impede Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.
Other charges include obstruction of an official proceeding, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and disorderly conduct.