Security fence around US Capitol is the cause of ire among some legislators, who say barrier reminds them of ‘warzone’.
A reputed leader in the Oath Keepers militia group discussed forming an “alliance” and coordinating plans with another hardline group, the Proud Boys, ahead of the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6, according to new court papers.
The court filing, which detail messages from Kelly Meggs, described by authorities as the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, is the first time prosecutors have suggested that the members of the two far-right groups were communicating with each other before coming to Washington.
Meggs is among 10 members and associates of the Oath Keepers charged with plotting to stop Congress from certifying the election victory of President Joe Biden. The case against those affiliated with the Oath Keepers is the largest conspiracy case brought by prosecutors so far in the attack.
Several members of the Proud Boys, who describe themselves as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists”, have also been charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress.
On December 19, Meggs wrote in a Facebook message that he “organised an alliance” between the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Florida Three Percenters, an anti-government movement.
“We have decided to work together and shut this [expletive] down,” Meggs wrote, according to the document prosecutors filed late on Tuesday urging the judge to keep Meggs locked up while he awaits trial.
Days later, Meggs wrote that the Oath Keepers would probably be guarding someone during the day, “but at night we have orchestrated a plan” with the Proud Boys.
“We are gonna march with them for a while then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the proud boys get in front of them the cops will get between Antifa and Proud Boys. We will come in behind Antifa and beat the hell out of them,” Meggs wrote, referring to the anti-fascist movement Antifa, according to the filing.
In another message on December 26, Meggs said he believed President Donald Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president to deploy the military within the US.
“Then wait for the 6th when we are all in DC to insurrection,” Meggs wrote, authorities say.
Defence attorneys have argued that any discussions their clients had in the weeks leading up to January 6 were about preparations to provide security at the rally before the riot or to protect the pro-Trump crowd from Antifa activists they believed might attack them.
They have denied that there was any plot to storm the Capitol or obstruct the certification of the Electoral College vote.
Authorities have said the Oath Keepers were “prepared to do whatever was necessary to stop the certification” but have conceded they do not have records in which someone explicitly says the plan was to breach the Capitol.
Meggs’ lawyer argued in his request for pretrial release that despite the “inflammatory language” authorities have used, there is no evidence that Meggs committed any acts of violence or damaged government property.
On Wednesday, US District Judge Amit Mehta agreed to release from jail another defendant in the Oath Keepers conspiracy, Laura Steele of North Carolina, while she awaits trial. Mehta said there is no evidence Steele destroyed property, assaulted anyone at the Capitol or, unlike other defendants, was involved in recruiting or training ahead of the attack.
More than 300 people have been charged in connection to the riot. Authorities have said they believe at least 100 more could face charges.
A federal official, who had initially lead the Department of Justice investigation into the riot, said in an interview earlier this week that authorities were still determining if Trump is “criminally culpable” for his role in egging on supporters before the breach.