Brandon Straka, a supporter of former president Donald Trump's who developed an online following denouncing Democrats as racist, anti-gay, and violent, was charged Monday for taking part in the insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month.
An actor who describes himself as a "former liberal," Straka founded the #WalkAway campaign to encourage others to leave the Democratic Party, earning retweets from Trump as well as regular appearances on conservative TV programs. On Jan. 5, Straka was a speaker at the "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington, DC. According to the Department of Justice, on Jan. 6 he urged rioters to force their way into the Capitol building — which can be seen in video he recorded.
Federal charges against him include impeding a law enforcement officer during civil disorder, knowingly entering restricted grounds without authority, and engaging in disorderly conduct to obstruct a congressional hearing.
After going viral with a video in which he described why he was leaving the Democratic Party in 2018, Straka gained hundreds of thousands of followers and became a frequent commentator for outlets, including Fox News. He has spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement, he was banned from American Airlines in June after he refused to wear a face mask on a flight to Dallas, and he has spread lies about the results of the November election on social media.
According to a federal affidavit, at the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 5, Straka spoke for about five minutes, referring to the movement as a "revolution" and attendees as "patriots."
"We are sending a message to the Democrats: 'We are not going away. You've got a problem!'" Straka told the crowd.
The following day, according to court records, Straka was set to speak at the rally again, and he was on his way when he read news reports that people had stormed the Capitol building.
In a video Straka posted about the events on Jan. 6, he claims that he saw "nothing being broken" and "nobody committing any acts of violence."
"I had no idea that there was any vandalism or violence or any of that stuff," Straka says in the video.
One of Straka's relatives later provided a video to the FBI showing him making his way to the entrance of the Capitol and egging people to go inside. The video has been deleted by Straka but reposted on YouTube.
"We're going in, we're going in," Straka says as he gets closer to the door. "Go, go."
An officer tries to keep the crowd away by using a clear shield, which rioters pry away from him, forcing him into the angry mob, the video shows.
"Take it away from him," Straka says, according to the video and the affidavit. "Take it! Take it!"
Moments later, some of the people can be seen walking away from the entrance.
"They're using gas," Straka says. "We're being gassed right now."
Following the attack on the Capitol, Straka tweeted, berating Trump supporters and politicians who had condemned the rioters.
"I'm completely confused," Straka tweeted, according to the affidavit. "For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying '1776!' & that if congress moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol — now everybody is virtual signaling their embarrassment that this happened."
In another tweet, he criticized those who later denied being at the Capitol.
"Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there," he wrote on Jan. 6, according to the affidavit. "It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the hope of our Republic because literally nobody area about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not."
Straka's Twitter account has since been made private and many posts have been deleted, according to the affidavit provided by the FBI. However, agents were able to obtain copies of the video and screenshots of the tweets.
Straka did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.