It is the most serious charge held to date against the participants in the attack on the seat of Congress, as elected officials certified Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
In another part of this vast investigation, the parliamentary commission, responsible for shedding light on the events of January 6 and establishing the responsibility of Donald Trump, announced Thursday to assign social networks Alphabet, parent company of Youtube, Meta ( formerly Facebook), Reddit and Twitter.
Elected officials want to know “to what extent the spread of disinformation and violent extremism has contributed” to this assault and any measures taken by these companies to prevent their platforms from becoming tools of radicalization.
Stewart Rhodes, 56, was charged with “sedition” along with ten other members of the Oath Keepers.
Nine of them had already been arrested and faced prosecution for “criminal conspiracy” to interfere with an official process or violence, which involved some degree of coordination.
The charge of “sedition”, very rarely used and punishable by 20 years in prison, goes further.
It involves having conspired against the government or one of its laws, a much more political dimension.
Two days after the presidential election of November 3, 2020, Stewart Rhodes had said in an encrypted conversation with other members: “We will not be able to get out of this without a civil war”, according to the indictment.
Before January 6, Stewart Rhodes “joined” with some of his co-defendants “in order to prevent the peaceful transfer of power”, in particular “by using violence”, it is indicated.
The members of the Oath Keepers arrested thus “organized transport from all over the country to Washington, equipped themselves with all kinds of weapons, dressed in combat gear and they were ready to respond to Rhodes’ calls to arms.”
Their aim was to “enter by force and attempt to take control” of the Capitol, the document claims.
At the time of the attack, Mr. Rhodes, a former serviceman who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, was near the Capitol, but it is unclear whether he entered its compound.
In addition to Stewart Rhodes, who graduated in law from Yale University before practicing in Montana, the police arrested Thursday, in Arizona, another member of this radical group, Edward Vallejo, 63 years old.
Mr. Rhodes is the figurehead, recognizable by his blindfold on the left eye, of this paramilitary organization largely decentralized and strong of several thousand members, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which fights anti-Semitism and the racism.
In particular, the Oath Keepers oppose the federal government, accused of collaborating with a global conspiracy to deprive American citizens of their rights, including the right to own a weapon.
The organization primarily recruits soldiers, police, firefighters or members of the emergency services, who have taken an oath to protect the American Constitution “against its foreign and internal enemies”, according to the ADL.
Upon entering the Oath Keepers, they also promise to disobey any order from a “tyrannical government” that violates the Constitution, such as “disarming the Americans” or imposing martial law on the country.
The Oath Keepers, dressed in military uniforms and in arms, increased their visibility in 2020 by participating in protests against restrictions imposed in some states to stem the coronavirus pandemic. They were also displayed on the sidelines of the major anti-racist demonstrations that rocked the country to, according to them, protect businesses from looting.
The group also takes up conspiracy theories such as the existence of a “deep state” within the US administration wanting to establish a “new world order” and undermine the authority of former President Donald Trump. .
Since January 6, more than 725 people – including members of far-right groups Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters – have been arrested for their participation in the assault on Capitol Hill.