Capitol riot: Where are Donald Trump’s QAnon followers one year on?

They were truck drivers, pizza shop owners, estate agents, mechanics, students and grandmothers, and on one ghastly afternoon they morphed into a mob that shamed America in the eyes of the world.

A year on from their day of infamy some of the Jan 6 rioters are locked up in jail. Others have publicly recanted, occasionally in tears, blaming Donald Trump for brainwashing them.

Hundreds more have scuttled back to ordinary lives in anonymous towns across the United States, and the FBI is still looking for them.

The most dangerous still believe that Mr Trump is the rightful president, and are ready to do it all over again if the time comes.

Perhaps the most visible figure during the worst assault on the US Capitol since the War of 1812 was the conspiracy theorist Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon shaman,” who roamed the corridors of power bare chested in a bison headdress, and brandishing a megaphone.

shaman Jacob Chansley, the “QAnon shaman,” shouting “Freedom” inside the Senate chamber on Jan 6, 2021 Credit: Getty

Chansley subsequently, and fruitlessly, asked Mr Trump for a pardon, and went on hunger strike in jail as he demanded organic food.

At his sentencing in November the Navy veteran accepted blame and poured his heart out, quoting “The Shawshank Redemption,” and saying he wanted to be like Mahatma Gandhi.

The judge in Washington called his speech the “most remarkable I’ve heard in 34 years” and “akin to the kind of thing Martin Luther King would have said.”

He then jailed Chansley for 41 months on a charge of obstructing Congress.

The longest jail term so far has been five years for Robert Scott Palmer, from Tampa, Florida, who attacked police with a fire extinguisher and a plank as someone on a megaphone yelled: “You are not going to take away our Trumpy bear.”

Palmer was hard to miss in the riot, dressed in a “Florida for Trump” hat and stars-and-stripes jacket.

At his sentencing last month Palmer said his view now was that Mr Trump and others had been “spitting out a false narrative about a stolen election,” wrongly telling people like him it was “our duty to stand up to tyranny.”

Capitol rioter who allegedly assaulted cops with fire extinguisher ID’d as Robert Scott Palmer

— New York Post (@nypost) March 5, 2021

At another recent sentencing Judge Amit Mehta jailed rioter John Lolos for 30 days, but told him: “In a sense, Mr. Lolos, I think you are a pawn. Those who orchestrated Jan 6 have in no meaningful sense been held accountable. Regrettably, people like Mr Lolos were told lies.”

Daniel Rodriguez, 38, from Panorama City, California, who has been accused of firing a Taser at a police officer, wept and called himself a “f—ing piece of s—” in an interview released by the FBI.

Rodriguez told agents he had fallen for a “big joke” that “we were going to save this country.”

Meanwhile, Adam Johnson, 36, who waved for pictures as he paraded through the Capitol carrying Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern, pleaded guilty to entering a restricted building. Prosecutors dropped more serious charges.

Johnson, from Parrish, Florida, appeared in a virtual hearing before a judge in Washington an said he had got “caught up” in the moment.

The judge excoriated him for “clownish behaviour”.

He is due to be sentenced in February and could face up to six months in prison.

riot Adam Johnson carries Nancy Pelosi’s lectern through the Capitol Credit: Getty

Among those who have pleaded not guilty is Eric Munchel, 30, from Atlanta, known as the “zip tie guy” after he was photographed in the Senate chamber, wearing combat gear and carrying plastic cuffs.

His lawyers have claimed he was only there to guard his mother, Lisa Marie Eisenhart, 57, and that footage shows him saying “Mom, be careful.”

More than 700 people have now been arrested in a massively complex investigation, and the FBI is still looking for around 250 who were caught on camera assaulting police officers.

That includes one rioter who used a cane with electric prods on the end to jab and shock police.

The most sough after suspect is a man in Nike shoes who planted pipe bombs.

FBI agents are still examining 14,000 hours of video, with help from so-called “sedition hunters,” amateur sleuths working on home computers.

A total of around 160 rioters have so far pleaded guilty.

riot Supporters of Donald Trump take over the Capitol Credit: Getty

According to Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, the vast majority of the 700 arrested did not fit the usual profile of extremists.

He said 87 per cent were not members of militant groups, only seven per cent were unemployed, and only 15 per cent had served in the military.

A year on the influence of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which drove some of them to believe Mr Trump was in a war against the “deep state,” has faded.

The anonymous online “Q” account which people like Chansley looked to, has not posted a message since the riot, and proponents of the conspiracy theory have devolved into internal squabbles.

According to a report by the Atlantic Council in Washington domestic extremist movements that embraced the Capitol attack later became “paralysed by paranoia” amid arrests and criticism, and accused each other of cooperating with authorities.

Facebook and Twitter banned many of their adherents, leading to what the report called a “great scattering” of extremists online.

That has led to some extremist groups returning to more traditional activities like holding in-person conferences and telephone campaigns at a local level.

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