A right-wing activist known for his unwavering support for former President Donald Trump and for urging Democrats to walk away from their party has been arrested for participating in the Capitol insurrection.
Brandon Straka, 43, has been charged with several crimes, including impeding a law enforcement officer during civil disorder and engaging in disorderly conduct with the intent to disturb a hearing before Congress, for his role in the Jan. 6 siege.
The ex-New York City hairstylist and self-described “former liberal” is best known for starting the “WalkAway Campaign,” which urged liberal voters to leave the Democratic Party. Earlier this month, Straka announced Facebook had removed the campaign’s page, which had over half a million followers.
In June, Straka also made national headlines after he was banned from American Airlines for refusing to wear a mask on a flight to Dallas amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday, prosecutors state Straka posted several photos and videos during and after the riots. The court documents say investigators were clued into Straka’s involvement when a tipster indicated he had posted a video on Twitter on Jan. 6 in which the activist shouted, “Go, Go!” near the entrance of the Capitol.
“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 also wrote in a Jan. 6 tweet.
Prosecutors allege that Straka took multiple videos during and after the riots. In one Jan. 7 video, the activist admits, “Yesterday, a lot of us got up very, very early. We went to this event in which Donald Trump spoke. The plan was always to go to the Capitol. We were going to march from that event…to the Capitol, and there was going to be another rally. I was one of the speakers slated to speak at the Capitol.”
Straka says that as he was walking to the Capitol, he’d learned “patriots had entered” it.
“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,” he says in the Jan. 7 video, according to the complaint.
Straka then claimed he saw “bursts of teargas coming out of the doors.”
“Shortly after that, a man came out” who told him, “They’ve cleared Congress. Everybody’s left. There’s no one else inside. Everybody turn around. No one else come inside,’” Straka says.
Despite Straka’s lengthy video claiming he was not directly involved in the riots, screenshots of his Twitter account show that he encouraged MAGA supporters to storm the Capitol.
“Patriots at the Capitol – HOLD. THE. LINE!!!!” he wrote in one Jan. 6 tweet. In another, Straka added that he “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’m completely confused. For 6-8 weeks everybody on the right has been saying ‘1776!’ & that if congress moves forward it will mean a revolution! So congress moves forward. Patriots storm the Capitol—now everybody is virtual signaling their embarrassment that this happened,” Straka wrote in another post.
The complaint notes that the FBI received many tips about his involvement, including one from a relative, who said they saw a video of Straka on the “cusp” of entering the Capitol. The relative added that Straka can be heard saying, “We’re going in. We’re going in,” in a video later posted on YouTube with the title, “Straka attacking the Capitol on Jan 6th.”
In the eight-minute video taken on Jan. 6, a Capitol Police officer is seen holding a protective shield as he tries to stop a crowd of rioters. As individuals push past the officer to break into the Capitol, Straka is heard yelling, “Take it away from him” and “Take the shield!”
Several people in the crowd then grab the officer’s shield as Straka continues to yell: “Take it! Take it!”
As Straka continues to move closer to the Capitol entrance, he turns the camera around to face himself and states, “They’re using gas. We’re being gassed right now.”
Straka’s popularity among right-wingers surged after he started the “WalkAway” campaign in 2018. On Monday, he was a guest on Newsmax host Greg Kelly’s podcast to discuss “his war with far-leftists” and Facebook’s decision to remove his campaign page.
It was not immediately clear when the interview was taped. (According to court records, however, prosecutors originally filed charges against Straka on Jan. 20.)
In June, Straka was barred from American Airlines after refusing to wear a mask on a flight to Dallas. After a heated exchange with an airline employee during boarding for the flight at La Guardia Airport, he was ushered off the plane.
In an interview with The New York Times after the incident, Straka claimed he had a medical condition that prevented him from wearing a mask. (Straka, however, did not elaborate on his condition.)
“My feeling was that the airline succumbed to mob mentality, which, I feel, is happening all over the place in our country right now,” Straka insisted.