After Mar-a-Lago search, users on pro-Trump forums agitate for ‘civil war’ – including Jan 6 rioter

Some users on pro-Trump internet forums told users to ‘lock and load’, agitated for the Civil War and urged protesters to come to Mar-a-Lago in the hours after the announcement of the news that the FBI had searched former President Donald Trump’s compound in Florida on Monday. .

One user posting about “Civil War” shortly after the raid was Tyler Welsh Slaeker, a Washington state man awaiting sentencing for storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021, according to previous research and statements published online. A December report by Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative group, found that Slaeker had posted on pro-Trump internet forum TheDonald under the username “bananaguard62.”

Monday evening, username “bananaguard62” posted the main reply to the “lock and load” message.

“Aren’t we in a cold civil war at this point?” asked the account. Another user replied “there are several points”. Another main response to Slaeker cited a notorious anti-Semitic Nazi rallying cry.

Jan. 6 defendant Tyler Slaeker, right, takes a selfie inside the United States Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.FBI

In the months leading up to January 6, Slaeker posted selfies to his bananaguard62 account, and it will appear later in photos from the capitol riot and arrest records. On January 6, he uploaded a photo of himself watching Trump’s speech from a tree on the Ellipse. Metadata for this photo confirms it was taken by Slaeker, according to the Advance Democracy report. NBC News has also seen the photo and its metadata.

Within minutes of the search being announced, users of pro-Trump forums like TheDonald, a Reddit-like website that was used to provide logistics before the Capitol riot, called for immediate violence. , asking questions such as “When does filming start?” and calling on Trump to summon militias.

The most popular comment responding to the news, voted over 1,200 times, was simply the words “lock and load”.

Later that night, Slaeker clarified in a response that he couldn’t be more specific about his Civil War post.

“I await the conviction for trespassing the Capitol,” he wrote. “I’m just careful with my words.”

Jan. 6, Defendant Tyler Slaeker, center, at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jan. 6, Defendant Tyler Slaeker, center, at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.FBI

Slaeker’s recent posts illustrate that some of the same people on extremist forums talking about “civil war” or seeking more violence have taken concrete action in the past.

“Before the attack on the Capitol on January 6, we saw unprecedented plans online to carry out violence in the real world,” said Advance Democracy President Daniel J. Jones, a former staffer at the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement. “The online outrage was based on false allegations of voter fraud and bizarre theories of coordinated government corruption. The FBI raid prompted similar violent rhetoric online – including from at least one accused person. in connection with the January 6 uprising.

“The promotion of sweeping government conspiracy theories by political leaders, elected officials and political artists continues to undermine our democracy — and will likely lead to further political violence,” Jones said.

Users of extremist pro-Trump forums urged his supporters to hold an impromptu “rally” outside Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s compound in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday night, according to posts seen by NBC News. According to Cristian Benavides, a reporter for NBC Miami, some of the former president’s supporters began arriving in trucks before midnight. One vehicle displayed a “Trump-Pence” flag running the length of the truck bed, with former Vice President Mike Pence’s name crossed out.

In other extremist chats on Telegram, including a chat between “Groypers” or members of the white nationalist “America First” movement, users shared a message from the Proud Boys’ Telegram account, adding that the FBI is “the Gestapo of Biden” and that “Civil war is imminent.”

More traditional pro-Trump influencers, including podcasters with millions of followers on YouTube or Twitter, also beefed up their rhetoric.

“Tomorrow is war,” Steven Crowder, who has more than 5 million YouTube subscribers and 1.9 million Twitter followers, said in a tweet. “Sleep well.”

Slaeker is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16 before Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, where all of the January 6 cases are being prosecuted. His lawyer, Kimberly Hodde, requested last month that the sentencing be delivered in person rather than by videoconference. Hodde did not respond to a request for comment. Neither the government nor Slaeker have filed their sentencing notes, which are due a week before the sentencing date.

As part of his plea deal in June, Slaeker admitted he was wearing a helmet and recording video on his phone when he entered the Capitol “through an exterior door that had been opened from the inside by d ‘other rioters’ and that he was ‘with a crowd of rioters’ in the rotunda. He then left the building, briefly re-entered it through the same door, then left.

“The defendant knew at the time he entered the United States Capitol building that he had no authority to do so and that the building was restricted,” Slaeker admitted as part of his agreement to advocacy.

Slaeker pleaded guilty to one count of entering and staying in a restricted-access building, and as part of his plea deal, he received credit for acceptance of liability on the condition that he “clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility, to the satisfaction of the government, by [his] allocation, compliance with all the provisions of [the plea agreement], and the conduct between the entering of the plea and the imposition of the sentence. Other charges would be dropped at sentencing as part of the plea deal.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, but Slaeker’s estimated sentencing guidelines were zero to six months, according to court documents.

Slaeker repeatedly posted about his experience at the Capitol on January 6, insisting to TheDonald users that the event was not a “false flag,” as some users continued to claim. Messages are usually quickly deleted, but they have been archived by Advance Democracy.

Harry L. Blanchard