Far-right extremists have been pushing the unfounded conspiracy theory that antifa was behind the attempted coup at the Capitol on Wednesday, a claim that has no evidence to support it. In reality, Donald Trump had been urging his followers for weeks to come protest the counting of the electoral college votes, and had been using violent rhetoric that very day when speaking with the crowds.
Almost immediately after the riots began on Wednesday afternoon, claims started circulating on Twitter and Facebook that antifascist protesters were storming the capitol in MAGA garb as a means of smearing the right. One image that circulated appeared to be a flyer posted by members of “antifa,” urging members to dress up as Trump supporters and wreak havoc on November 4th. (The flyer has previously been found to be fabricated.)
Another appeared to suggest that Jake Angeli, a QAnon supporter who is known as the “Q Shaman,” was actually an antifa plant, despite the fact that he is a relatively well-known presence at pro-Trump rallies. One image of Angeli that was circulating on social media purported to show him at a BLM protest in order to attempt to link him to the movement; in an un-cropped version of the image, however, he can be seen holding a sign that says “Q sent me.”
On the social media platform Parler, which is popular among members of the right, pro-Trump attorney and conspiracy theorist Lin Wood shared a meme featuring an image of a rioter on the dais in the capitol pumping his fist, a photographer positioned over him. “This look staged to you? First in the air classic Trump supporter signal, right?,” the image said, circling both figures, along with the text “NOT MAGA.” “Discernment,” Wood cryptically said in the caption for the meme, which was shared on Parler tens of thousands of times. Wood also later posted, “The traitors stage[d] the whole event. They all have blood on their hands.”
Wood also tweeted a claim that one of the men photographed at the riots was an antifascist depicted on the website PhillyAntifa.com, a post that received more than 50,000 shares before he was temporarily suspended from Twitter. While it is true that a photograph of a man appearing to resemble the rioter appears on the website, it is actually in the context of exposing a white supremacist named Jason Tankersley. Others have also suggested the man in the photograph from the riots has a hammer and sickle tattoo, the logo of the Communist party; it is actually a tattoo of the logo from the video game series Dishonored, and the two images bear little similarity.
One of the most prominent figures to publicly promote this claim has been Rep. Matt Gaetz, a far-right politician and conspiracy theorist, who claimed on the House floor on Wednesday night that some of the rioters had been antifa plants. “Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa,” he alleged, without any basis in reality. As support for this “theory,” he cited a Washington Times article claiming to cite a facial recognition firm’s findings that two of the rioters matched images of members of Philadelphia antifa. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham also made this claim in a tweet that was retweeted more than 40,000 times.
The Daily Beast later reported that the company in question, XRVision, refuted the Washington Times‘ reporting, stating, “our attorney is in contact with the Washington Times and has instructed them to ‘Cease and Desist’ from any claims regarding sourcing of XRVision analytics, to retract the current claims, and publish and (sic) apology.”