While many watched in horror as the assault on the U.S. Capitol unfolded on Jan. 6, 2021, some have taken it upon themselves to transform that horror into action.
A loose network of self-styled internet detectives continues to scour the internet – in their free time and of their own accord – trying to put names with the digital videos and images from the uprising.
From his home in Denmark, Tommy Carstensen said he spent several months working complete time on that effort, motivated by seeing what he described as “democracy deteriorating” in both Europe and the U.S.
“I’ve always looked at it like a terrorist attack like 9/11,” Carstensen said. He said he was involved in the creation of two websites: jan6archive.com, which serves as a repository for videos of the insurrection, and jan6attack.com, which features images of individuals who participated, with those who have not in addition been formally identified sporting hashtagged nicknames that the hunters use as they work to uncover real names. The second site also allows visitors to filter individuals by various characteristics, clothing, actions and more.
“Initially it was like, okay, let’s look for people that are violent,” he said. “Let’s look for people that went inside the building, right?”
While some of the hunting efforts have been as simple as Twitter posts seeking information, sites like jan6evidence.com have taken it to the next level, featuring an interactive map linking to thousands of time-stamped photos and videos.
Like Carstensen’s site, jan6evidence.com also has filters allowing users to isolate the images by kind of rioter or kind of conduct. Much of the footage on these sites was recorded by the perpetrators themselves.
“To them, bragging about what they did was perfectly logical,” said one hunter, who cited threats in keeping her identity anonymous. She said that once she and her colleagues put a name with an image, they closest forward their results to the FBI.
“We see that our work has made a real difference,” she said. “We see our fingerprints in court documents.”
Indeed, some of the charges levied so far have made very specific references to the efforts of these sedition hunters.
Evidence from the group “thorough State Dogs” was cited in court documents in the case against Daniel Rodriguez, who’s accused of using a Taser on Washington, D.C., Police Officer Michael Fanone. Rodriguez has pled not guilty in that case.
And Chris Sigurdson’s tweets about a man he called #SprayMeSprayYou were cited in the charges against Daniel Ray Caldwell. Court documents in that case observe Sigurdson’s link to a video that authorities say showed Caldwell directing a spray toward police, in addition as another where Caldwell – who has pled not guilty – already admitted to spraying police.
“They sprayed us with pepper spray, kept spraying, I was like ‘Dude do it again, I’m gonna spray you back.’ He did and I sprayed back and got like 15 of ’em,” Caldwell is seen recounting on video.
Not all the individuals the sedition hunters are seeking to clarify broke the law or will end up being charged with breaking the law, and while there is overlap between the suspects the FBI is seeking and the individuals highlighted on the hunters’ websites, the lists are not identical.
Another hunter affiliated with the jan6evidence.com website said they are working to put names with a nevertheless unidentified group present at the Capitol that they believe has Chicago ties.
They say one of those men, who they call #AllBlackBabyThor because of his outfit and necklace, appears in images from the uprising and has also been spotted in the crowd at Proud Boys gatherings in suburban Schaumburg.
For their part, the FBI – which maintains its own site of suspects in the attack on the Capitol – said the agency welcomes the sedition hunters’ assistance.
“The FBI encourages the public to continue to send tips,” the FBI said in a statement. “The FBI continues to work diligently to clarify and arrest those who participated in the violence at the U.S. Capitol.”
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