Violence draws calls for calm from some hard-right politicians in Europe, but others remain notably silent.
A jury found a New York City man guilty of threatening to kill elected officials after prosecutors linked his comments to the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol.
Brendan Hunt was convicted of the federal charges on Wednesday, after a weeklong trial in federal court in Brooklyn. His defence attempted to portray the charges as overblown.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Hunt on January 18, 2021, his posts threatening violence began during last summer’s anti-lockdown protests against restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Hunt posted to his Facebook account on December 6, 2020 that people should shoot police if they enforce the lockdowns. But if “you’re going to shoot someone tho, go after a high value target like pelosi schumer or AOC”, he posted, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“They really need to be put down. These commies will see death before they see us surrender! USA!!”
Hunt was not at the Capitol riot, where supporters of former President Donald Trump attempted to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, but he posted a video in support of the chaos.
On January 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol riot, Hunt posted a video on BitChute titled “Kill your senators. Slaughter them all”. BitChute is a video-hosting platform popular with members of the far right.
Hunt said in the January 8 video: “We need to go back to the US Capitol when all of the Senators and a lot of the Representatives are back there, and this time we have to show up with our guns. And we need to slaughter these motherf*****s”.
Hunt also used anti-Semitic rhetoric, according to comments included in the complaint.
Capitol Police Special Agent Christopher Desrosiers testified during Hunt’s trial to frame the episode as a further catalyst for Hunt’s alleged call to massacre members of Congress.
Desrosiers – believed to be the first member of the Capitol force to testify at a criminal trial related to the insurrection – described the violence and chaos he observed on January 6 as an officer tasked with tracking the crowd.
The insurrection resulted in five deaths, including that of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was attacked by the rioters. An autopsy found Sicknick died of natural causes.
Testifying in his own defence on Tuesday, 37-year-old Hunt did not deny creating a series of menacing-sounding posts. But he told the jury that they were often put together while he was impaired from smoking cannabis with a bong and drinking beer, and that he never thought they would be taken seriously.
“I wrote a lot of things I didn’t mean,” Hunt said, calling himself “immature” and “very irresponsible”.
He added: “I just feel terrible about how I expressed myself.”
The jury found Hunt’s video did pose a real threat. Hunt faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing on June 22. The Associated Press left a message with one of his lawyers on Wednesday.
Acting US Attorney Mark Lesko said in a statement: “With today’s verdict, the defendant is now a convicted felon … because he threatened to attack and kill members of Congress to prevent them from carrying out their constitutional duties, and that is a federal crime.”