The founder of the “WalkAway” social media campaign that encourages people to leave the Democratic Party has been charged in connection to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Brandon Straka, 44, was arrested by agents from the FBI Omaha field office on Monday.
He is charged with impeding a law enforcement officer during civil disorder, knowingly entering and remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority and/or engaging in disorderly conduct within proximity to a restricted building to impede official functions, and engaging in disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress.
The charges come less than three weeks after the violent Jan. 6 Capitol Hill siege that led to the deaths of five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.
FBI investigators said that the day after the siege, Straka posted a nearly hourlong video to social media in which he said he learned on his way to Capitol Hill that “patriots had entered the Capitol” and said that he thought to himself, “Wow, so they’re going to basically storm and try to get into the chamber so that they can demand that we get the investigation that we want.”
According to court documents, Straka made his way up the stairs of the Capitol and said he saw “nothing being broken” and “nobody committing any acts of violence.”
The FBI agent in charge also said the bureau received screenshots of Straka’s tweets from the day of the riot in which he appeared to encourage and defend those who stormed the building.
“Patriots at the Capitol – HOLD. THE. LINE!!!!” Straka said in one tweet.
“I arrived at the Capitol a few hours ago as Patriots were storming from all sides. I was quite close to entering myself as police began tear gassing us from the door. I inhaled tear gas & got it in my eyes. Patriots began exiting shortly after saying Congress had been cleared,” he said in another.
“Also- be embarrassed & hide if you need to- but I was there. It was not Antifa at the Capitol. It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not,” Straka said.
A witness, who was not named in the documents, sent a video to FBI investigators that allegedly shows Straka outside the Capitol building saying, “We’re going in. We’re going in” and later yelling, “Go! Go!” as people in front of him tried to shove their way inside. He is accused of yelling, “Take the shield!” as a Capitol Police officer held up his shield before it was snatched by the mob.
Straka founded the WalkAway movement and describes himself as a “former liberal.” His group’s website says the campaign “encourages and supports those on the Left to walk away from the divisive tenets endorsed and mandated by the Democratic Party of today.”
Straka’s preliminary hearing has not yet been set.