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We Tracked Down "Capitol Meemaw" — Who Was Not Actually At The US Capitol

A Jan. 6 photo of an older Trump supporter was actually taken in Topeka, Kansas — not at the scene of the mob riot in Washington, DC.

Posted on January 12, 2021, at 5:38 p.m. ET

In the chaos of last week's insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, people online have been trying to identify those who were part of the mob.

Many rioters who appeared in viral photos have since been named and charged, but one woman captured in a photograph from Jan. 6 has instead become a meme: meemaw at the Capitol.

@mentalmillness / Twitter / Via Twitter: @mentalmillness

The photo of the older woman wearing comfortable clothing, smiling at the camera, and carrying a flag, phone, and drinking cup emerged on the day of the DC riot when one Twitter user shared a wider image with a caption about white privilege. (Many people have argued the mostly white Trump supporters received vastly different treatment from authorities than Black Lives Matter demonstrators have.)

This is white privilege in America . Let that sink in

@FlockaKnows / Twitter / Via Twitter: @FlockaKnows

Another user then retweeted that post but zoomed in on the woman. His post was subsequently shared tens of thousands of times.

she dont even know where the hell she at https://t.co/Q9XubxnToJ

@1BrayWoods / Twitter / Via Twitter: @1BrayWoods

People immediately began wondering about the so-called meemaw (an affectionate term for a grandmother) and how she had somehow helped storm the Capitol despite her age, diminutive size, and seemingly pleasant but confused demeanor.

@1BrayWoods SOMEONE GET THERE MEEMAW

@thedaniellop23 / Twitter / Via Twitter: @THEDANIELLOP23

@FlockaKnows "girl we really bout to overthrow the government"

@LaniPierre / Twitter / Via Twitter: @LaniPierre

A trillion dollar defense budget couldn’t keep Meemaw from breaching our capitol building. The American taxpayers deserve a refund.

@StefaBro / Twitter / Via Twitter: @StefaBro

rare pic of meemaw breaking into the capitol (colorized 2021)

@emiisntfunny / Twitter / Via Twitter: @emiisntfunny

Other nicknames also popped up, including some mocking the false claim that antifa was involved.

You’re right. It was Aunt Tifa

@jimtews / Twitter / Via Twitter: @jimtews

There's just one big problem with the meme: The woman was not actually at the Capitol in DC on Jan. 6.

Instead, she was participating in another protest halfway across the country in Topeka, Kansas.

There are several key clues that show the image was not taken in DC.

First, the pro-Trump demonstrators appear to be standing around calmly in contrast to the violent and destructive scenes we saw in DC, where thousands were involved.

This is white privilege in America . Let that sink in

@FlockaKnows / Twitter / Via Twitter: @FlockaKnows

Second: The mural behind the woman to the right, titled "Arrival of the Railroad," is in the Kansas State Capitol's rotunda.

Kansas Historical Society / Via kshs.org

Third: The woman can actually be seen in profile in a photograph taken by local news station KSNT at the capitol in Topeka.

"I remember her, but I do not know her," KSNT photographer Keith Horinek told BuzzFeed News. "I'm not acquainted with her."

Unlike the scenes in DC, the Jan. 6 demonstration in Topeka was actually orderly and legal.

After roughly 250 people initially gathered outside, according to KSNT, several dozen protesters moved inside the building around 1:15 p.m. local time, dispersing about 90 minutes later.

Protest organizer Sean McCoy told BuzzFeed News he had secured permits to demonstrate both inside and outside of the Kansas State Capitol. He said he and fellow Trump supporters were screened by security and acted cordially.

Fox 4, another local station, said the group "entered the Statehouse peacefully through its security checkpoint, one-by-one or in small groups."

"They initially milled around, glanced at historical exhibits and sat on benches," Fox 4 reported, comparing the atmosphere to a family gathering.

Authorities in Kansas even praised the peaceful demonstration, which saw no arrests, in comparison to DC.

"I couldn't ask for a better protest," Kansas Highway Patrol Captain Amber Harrington told Fox 4. "Everybody has a right to speak their mind and protest, but I think it has to be done peacefully, and this group was great."

So who is the mystery woman?

She's a 66-year-old Christian woman who told BuzzFeed News she had come to the Kansas protest to pray for the country. (The woman asked not to be named, citing concerns for her privacy. The call with the woman was set up by McCoy, who listened in and said he was acting as her representative and protector.)

"At the Capitol, we were really just there to pray, and that's really our mission every time we go there — just cover the whole Capitol with the presence of the Lord," she said.

The woman, who said she grew up on a wheat farm in central Kansas, said she wasn't aware she'd been misrepresented online until a friend from DC contacted her.

"He said he'd seen a picture of me and wondered if I was at the [US] Capitol, and I assured him I was not," she said. "I was a long ways from there."

She added, "I couldn't be in two places at once!"

The woman, who said she doesn't have children or grandchildren of her own (and is therefore not actually a meemaw), said she hoped that agreeing to speak with BuzzFeed News would set the record straight.

"[The people online] are totally wrong. I was a long ways from there, and it was just like, oh my goodness! How could they even find a picture of me to use?" she said. "I'm not even on Twitter. I've never even used Twitter!"

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.