A week before the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, issued an unusual message to his crew. Originally launched in 2016, the Proud Boys are a violent, far-right group whose members describe themselves as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
In a Dec. 29, 2020, post on Parler, Tarrio called on gang members to “turn out in record numbers” on Jan. 6, but this time “with a twist.” He continued: “We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will be spread across downtown DC in smaller teams.”
That same day, the head of a Florida Proud Boys chapter, Joe Biggs, issued his own Parler post highlighting the importance of “blending in” on Jan. 6.
“You won’t see us,” he wrote. “We are going to smell like you, move like you, and look like you. The only thing we’ll do that’s us is think like us! Jan 6th is gonna be epic.”
By then, another far-right, extremist group, the Oath Keepers, was also preparing for Jan. 6. Two days before the riot, the group’s founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes, posted a statement on the Oath Keeper’s website. It read in part: It is CRITICAL that all patriots who can be in DC get to DC to stand tall in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup, through the massive vote fraud and related attacks on our Republic. … [W]e will also have well armed and equipped QRF [quick reaction force] teams on standby, outside DC, in the event of a worst case scenario, where the President calls us up as part of the militia to assist him inside DC.
From Jan. 5 through Jan. 7, the Oath Keepers did, in fact, stash an arsenal of firearms and ammunition at the Comfort Inn in Ballston, Va.—about a 15-minute drive from the Capitol—according to an indictment subsequently brought by federal prosecutors.
Of the more than 700 individuals who have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, only about 40 have been accused of “conspiracy”—meaning that they are accused of planning and coordinating with others in advance to commit crimes on that date. Of the 40 conspiracy defendants, the vast majority are either Oath Keepers or Proud Boys.
These two groups appear to have played an outsized role in the events of that day, and their cases should hold particular interest for those trying to understand the causes of the insurrection. Some of these individuals—mainly Proud Boys—stand accused of having played crucial roles in initiating the violence that day and in “getting the normies” around them “all riled up,” as one Proud Boy later bragged of having done. Others—mainly Oath Keepers—played semi-official roles at the rallies leading up to the riot, serving either as speakers themselves or providing “security” for speakers or “VIPs.”
“I’ll keep working on overall contact between Natl/congress team and stop the steal team for scheduling etc.,” Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs wrote, for instance, in an encrypted Oath Keeper chat channel on Signal on Jan. 4.
Twenty-one Oath Keepers (either dues-paying members or informal associates) have been charged in one indictment for, among other things, conspiring to corruptly obstruct an official proceeding—namely, the Joint Session of Congress devoted to counting the state’s previously certified Electoral College votes pursuant to the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act. Four of these defendants have already pleaded guilty, pledging to cooperate. The remaining defendants, who have all pleaded not guilty, are set to go to trial on April 19.
The Proud Boys prosecutions are more numerous, splintered and harder to count definitively—perhaps reflecting Tarrio’s instructions to remain “incognito” and to act in “smaller teams.” At least 15 Proud Boys (or their close associates) have been indicted for conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, though they have been charged in four different cases. (One of these defendants has pleaded guilty.) In addition, at least a dozen more Proud Boys or associates have been charged with serious felonies stemming from the attack—including assaulting police officers—although not with conspiring to commit those felonies.
The groups’ leaders—Oath Keeper founder Rhodes and Proud Boy chairman Tarrio—have not been charged, though each is alluded to in an indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator. Although Rhodes was present in D.C. on Jan. 6, he remained on the lawful side of the perimeter of the Capitol grounds’ restricted areas that day. He allegedly did communicate with his colleagues from there by phone and text, however. (Rhodes has denied that he or any Oath Keepers sought to disrupt certification of the Electoral College results, and has told the New York Times that the Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol building did so only to render aid after hearing that someone had been shot there. But according to the government’s timeline, at least 14 Oath Keepers had penetrated the building five minutes before rioter Ashli Babbitt was shot in a hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby.)
Tarrio, who is from Miami, was not in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. He arrived there Jan. 4, but was immediately arrested on charges stemming from violence after a Stop the Steal rally a month earlier. At the time of his arrest, he was found to be in felony possession of two high-capacity magazines compatible with AR-15 or M4 assault rifles. As a condition of pretrial release on Jan. 5, he was ordered to leave D.C. In July he pleaded guilty to having burned a Black Lives Matter banner vandalized from a historically Black church and to a misdemeanor charge relating to the magazines. Tarrio, who is believed to still be in custody on a five-month sentence imposed in late August, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Lucas Dansie, declined to comment.
Although there is some evidence of coordination between at least some Oath Keepers and Proud Boys in the days leading up to Jan. 6, for the most part the groups acted in quite distinct ways that day.
The Oath Keepers, for their part, acted in an audaciously open, disciplined and military fashion as they allegedly attacked the heart and symbol of our democratic government. At about 2:39 p.m. that day, when about 14 of them allegedly helped force open the building’s Eastern doors near the Capitol Rotunda, they were decked out in full tactical gear, wearing hard-knuckled gloves, tactical vests or “plate carriers,” camo helmets, ballistic goggles, radios with earpieces, gaiters and boots. Certain individuals allegedly carried bear spray or a coil of paracord. The spectacle of at least 12 Oath Keepers maneuvering up the Capitol steps in “stack formation”—each holding the shoulder of the cadre in front of him or her—became an indelible symbol of the insurrection. It was consistent with Rhodes’ repeated, months-long predictions of an imminent “bloody, bloody civil-war.”
The Oath Keepers’ case is also of special interest in that a number of these defendants were playing semi-official roles at the rallies that weekend as well as at earlier Stop the Steal rallies. At least one Oath Keeper—Jessica Watkins—had a VIP pass to provide security at the main rally at the Ellipse, while six others were providing security for longtime dirty trickster, convicted felon and Trump pardonee Roger Stone on Jan. 5 and 6.
Stone was not just a major promoter of the Stop the Steal movement and a key speaker at rallies on Jan. 5. He was also the original mastermind of the whole template for insurrection that played out on Jan. 6. Four years earlier—in July 2016—when Stone mistakenly assumed that Trump would lose his first Presidential contest against Hillary Clinton, he had laid out the entire insurrection formula in an interview on Breitbart’s The Milo Yiannopoulos Show. He had observed then that a voting machine was “essentially a computer” and had reasoned, “Who is to say they cannot be rigged?” He continued:
I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly. He needs to say for example: . . . ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.’
. . . I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their Inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.
Turning to the Proud Boys, their role on Jan. 6 was far more furtive than the Oath Keepers’—but also more violent and momentous. (Just one among the 21 accused Oath Keeper conspirators has been charged with assaulting a police officer, for instance, while many of the Proud Boys have been. The rest of the Oath Keepers are mainly charged with conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, impeding law enforcement officers during a civil disorder, damaging federal property and destroying evidence after the fact.)
By the time the Oath Keepers first helped the mob force its way into the east side of the Capitol at 2:39 p.m., the western side of the building had already been breached about a half hour earlier, at about 2:13 p.m. The Proud Boys had played a crucial role in accomplishing that feat, according to the government.
Moreover, as we’ll see, there is evidence that the Proud Boys planned to storm the Capitol from before the day ever began. They were allegedly present when rioters pushed over the very first line of bike-rack barriers on the Capitol’s northwest side and overpowered the first set of Capitol Police officers—leaving one with a concussion. Proud Boys then allegedly helped remove a second line of barriers closer to the building. They were allegedly at the forefront of those pushing up the steps beneath the Inaugural scaffolding to reach the Upper West Terrace. A Proud Boy broke out the very first window pane with a stolen riot shield at about 2:13 p.m. Over the next two minutes, at least six Proud Boys were among the first rioters to forcibly enter the Capitol building, either jumping through that broken window or walking through the door next to it, after a rioter forced it open from within.
In this article I provide an overview and timeline of what’s known so far about the extraordinary roles the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys played on that historic day. It is based largely on the allegations of indictments, charging instruments and other government filings in the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper cases, but is supplemented with other publicly available source materials and media analysis. (I have also relied in some instances on allegations contained in civil suits filed against individual Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, especially those brought against certain members of those groups by Capitol Police officer Conrad Smith and seven other injured police officers and by the District of Columbia.)
At this stage, although none of the cases have gone to trial and much is yet to learn, we can make some tentative conclusions:
- There is strong evidence that Proud Boy leaders planned and executed an attack on the Capitol.
- Though the Proud Boys made up a tiny percentage of the crowd, there is strong evidence that they played an extraordinarily important role in fomenting and executing the attack.
- There is strong evidence that Oath Keepers prepared in advance for violence on Jan. 6 and hoped that President Trump would “call them up” to impose something like martial law—probably by “invoking the Insurrection Act.”
- In contrast to the Proud Boys, however, it’s unclear if the Oath Keepers specifically set out to breach the Capitol that day. It’s not even clear whether they would have breached the Capitol had not the mob, spearheaded by Proud Boys, already done so first.
- Though there are individuals outside the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper organizations who obviously played crucial roles in setting the stage for the violence that these groups allegedly effectuated on Jan. 6–including Alex Jones, Roger Stone and Donald Trump—the Oath Keeper and Proud Boy prosecutions do not seem likely, in themselves, to present evidence that will criminally implicate those individuals. (I do not address here whether, by rebuffing for hours numerous entreaties to call off the rioters, Trump committed—or aided and abetted—the crime of corruptly obstructing an official proceeding under 18 U.S.C. §1512(c)(2).)
By May 2020, President Trump had begun laying the foundation for blaming his upcoming election loss on voter fraud. Apparently following Roger Stone’s template from 2016, he was alleging “widespread voting fraud” and “talking about it constantly.”
“MAIL-IN VOTING VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE,” he tweeted in May.
“RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS,” he tweeted in June. “IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!”
In September, Stone himself began implementing his own earlier narrative. In an interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Jones’s Infowars network, Stone said that ballots already cast in Nevada were “completely corrupted,” that “we can prove voter fraud in the absentees right now” and that “the votes from Nevada should not be counted.” Stone added that the only legitimate outcome to the 2020 election would be a Trump victory, and that Trump should consider declaring “martial law” or invoking the Insurrection Act.
In late October 2020, Oath Keepers founder Rhodes was also interviewed by Jones on Infowars, where he was a frequent guest. Whether by design or predisposition, Rhodes was fully onboard with the false election fraud narrative. He said that he would not recognize a Biden victory as “legitimate,” and that he didn’t “trust the electoral system any longer.” He spoke of a “coming civil war,” expressed concern about someone staging a “Benghazi-style attack” on the White House on election night and urged Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act before then.
Rhodes and his Oath Keepers have always evinced a strong paranoid streak. A former Army paratrooper and 2004 Yale Law School graduate, Rhodes founded the group in 2009 after President Obama took office. The group recruits heavily among former—and even current—military servicemen, police officers, firefighters and EMT personnel. Rhodes often wears an eye patch. That stems from a 1993 accident in which he dropped a loaded handgun, shooting himself in the face, according to the Atlantic’s Mike Giglio.
Rhodes built his organization on the premise that the U.S. government had been subverted by globalists and socialists. These enemies were not only going to try to seize Americans’ guns—though that was certainly the primary fear—but also to throw them into concentration camps. Oath Keepers, therefore, take oaths to refuse to obey a list of improbable government “orders” including, for instance, “any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps” or “any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps.”
On Nov. 7, 2020, the networks projected that then-former Vice President Joe Biden had won the election. The event had immediate implications for both the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.
That same day, Proud Boy chairman Tarrio posted on Parler: “Standby order has been rescinded.”
Tarrio was referring to the galvanizing, legitimizing event that Trump had conferred upon the Proud Boys in late September, during a Presidential debate. Asked by Chris Wallace if he would disavow “white supremacists and right-wing militia” like, for instance, “the Proud Boys,” Trump had responded:
The Proud Boys, stand back, and stand by. But I'll tell you what. I'll tell you what — somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.
After the debate, Proud Boys chairman Tarrio had posted on Parler, “Standing by, sir.” The head of the group’s Florida chapter, Joe Biggs, had posted: “Trump basically said to go fuck them up. This makes me so happy.” (Biggs is a retired Army staff-sergeant who served in Afghanistan. Since his medical discharge in 2012, according to his lawyer, he has suffered from “combat-related PTSD, depression, and some related alcohol problems.” Before joining the Proud Boys, Biggs had been a correspondent for Alex Jones’s Infowars, and the two men remain close, according to the New York Times’s Alan Feuer.)
Two days after Biden’s apparent victory, Rhodes held a virtual conference over the GoToMeeting app with at least six other high-ranking Oath Keepers, including Jessica Watkins of Ohio and Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson of Florida. (It appears to have been taped, and the government quotes from it verbatim in its Oath Keeper indictment.)
“We’re going to defend the president, the duly elected president,” Rhodes said—referring to Trump—"and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save the country. Because if you don’t, guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war and a bloody—you can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or a fight.”
Rhodes then called on the Oath Keepers to show up in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14 for what became known as the Million MAGA March. He continued:
If the fight comes, let the fight come. Let Antifa—if they go kinetic on us, then we’ll go kinetic back on them. . . . If they throw bombs at us and shoot us, great, because that brings the president his reason and rationale for dropping the Insurrection Act. . . . We hope he will give us the orders. We want him to declare an insurrection, and to call us up as the militia.
Afterward, Oath Keeper Watkins began recruiting people to join the tiny local militia she had founded, called the Ohio State Regular Militia, apparently in anticipation of bringing them to D.C., too. Watkins, then 38, ran a bar called The Jolly Roger in Woodstock, Ohio. She lived in an apartment above the bar with her companion, who was also a dues-paying Oath Keeper. Watkins is an Army vet who had served in Afghanistan. (According to later representations by her attorney, she is a transgender female who “was forced out of the military after her sexual orientation was discovered.” After the riot, when the FBI searched Watkins’s home in January 2021, agents found two bomb-making recipes in her apartment, including one for “Making Plastic Explosives from Bleach” and another for a pyrotechnic called “thermite.”)
“Basic training is mandatory,” Watkins texted one would-be recruit in November 2020, according to a later government filing. “I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic].” The training would include “2 days of wargames,” she explained, incorporated into larger “combat” training for “urban warfare, riot control, and rescue operations.”
Other Oath Keepers, the government alleges, had already begun combat training even before the election. Florida Oath Keepers (and now Jan. 6 defendants) Kelly Meggs, Connie Meggs (Kelly’s wife) and Kenneth Harrelson had taken a private combat training course in Leesburg, Fla., in September, which included training on “AR-platform firearms.”
In November, Oath Keeper Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Fla., was also recruiting. He urged others on Facebook to join him in “doing shit” rather than just “talking on Facebook,” prosecutors allege.
On Nov.10, 2020, Rhodes posted a “Call to Action!” on the Oath Keeper web site, which was further entitled: “March on DC, Stop the Steal, Defend the President, & Defeat the Deep State.” It said in part:
This election was stolen and this is a communist/Deep State coup, every bit as corrupt and illegitimate as what is done in third world banana republics. We must refuse to EVER recognize this as a legitimate election, and refuse to recognize Biden as a legitimate winner, and refuse to ever recognize him as the President of the United States. This election was stolen by corrupt, law-breaking Democrat partisans on the ground, and by the manipulation of the CIA created HAMMR (“Hammer”) and Scorecard programs.
“HAMMR” (or HAMR or Hammer) is a fictitious CIA supercomputer—a hoax, according to then Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency director Chris Krebs—and “Scorecard” is the fantastical program that some conspiracy theorists imagine it runs. (Pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell also touted Hammer as a source of voting fraud shortly after the election—on Fox News’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Nov. 6, for instance—before she pivoted toward propagating false accusations about various voting device manufacturers, including Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic.)
Later that same day, Rhodes appeared on Alex Jones’s show again, where he mixed apocalyptic predictions about bloodshed to come with QAnon-like tirades about the need to expose deep-state “pedophiles,” including Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.: “It’s either President Trump is encouraged, and bolstered, [and] strengthened to do what he must do,” Rhodes said, “or we wind up in a bloody fight. We all know that. The fight’s coming.”
Several Oath Keepers attended the Million MAGA March, including Watkins and Donovan Crowl, 50, who was also a member of Watkins’s militia in Ohio. Crowl is a former Marine whose later life, according to a post-riot New Yorker profile, had been marred by “drinking,” “addiction,” “domestic violence” and “extreme overt racism.” While they were in the D.C. area, Watkins and Crowl stayed at the farm of a retired Navy colonel, Tom Caldwell, of Berryville, Va., who was sympatico to the Oath Keepers’ objectives and worldview.
A few days after the Million MAGA March, Caldwell wrote to Crowl musing about next steps. “I think there will be real violence for all of us next time,” Caldwell wrote. “I know its [sic] not my place but I’m sure you have seen enough to know I am already working on the next D.C. op. We either WILL have a country and we’ll be battling antifa-like bugs to keep it or we will have lost our country/freedom and we will be fighting to regain it.”
Caldwell also texted Watkins a note a few days later, according to government filings:
I believe we will have to get violent to stop this, especially the antifa maggots who are sure to come out en masse even if we get the Prez for 4 more years. Stay sharp and we will meet again. You are my kinda person and we may have to fight next time. I have my own gear, I like to be ON TIME and go where the enemy is, especially after dark.
Since his post-riot arrest, Caldwell’s attorney has suggested in court filings that his client has a fertile imagination and likes to bluster, having once tried his hand at writing military-themed screenplays. Caldwell is 65, his attorney has noted, and is on full disability due to spinal injuries suffered while in the service. It’s unlikely Caldwell could have ever effectuated many of the boasts found in his vivid emails and texts, his attorney has argued.
Still, prosecutors argue that Caldwell is dangerous. In November 2020, they stress, Caldwell ordered a double barreled, .380-calibre concealed handgun designed to look like a cellphone. In December he also emailed his Oath Keeper contacts links for weapons available on eBay, including a “Zombie Killer Surgical Steel Tomahawk Axe.” (The smartphone-gun did not arrive before Jan. 6, though Caldwell had written to the dealer in late December to remind him: “I am eager to receive this weapon.” Caldwell cancelled the still undelivered order in February, after his arrest.)
In any case, other Oath Keepers’ rhetoric was as apocalyptic as Caldwell’s—at least when it came to the prospect of a Biden Presidency. On Nov. 17, 2020 Watkins wrote to a recruit:
I don't underestimate the result of the deep state. Biden may still yet be our President. If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights. . . . If Biden get [sic] the steal, none of us have a chance in my mind. We already have our neck in the noose. They just haven’t kicked in the chair yet.
The Proud Boys’ rhetoric during this period was every bit as dire. In response to a social media post calling for unity, Proud Boy Biggs responded on Nov. 24: “No bitch. This is war.”
Proud Boy Ethan Nordean—an alleged member of the Proud Boy’s governing “elders” chapter and a “sergeant-at-arms” of its Seattle chapter—issued the following post later that month, according to his indictment:
[W]e tried playing nice and by the rules, now you will deal with the monster you created. The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced and has created groups like the Proudboys and we will not be extinguished. We will grow like the flame that fuels us and spread like love that guides us. We are unstoppable, unrelenting and now … unforgiving. Good luck to all you traitors of this county we so deeply love … you’re going to need it.
Earlier that month, Nordean had solicited “militia groups” in the Pacific Northwest to contact him on an encrypted social media application, according to Washington, D.C.’s civil suit.
Proud Boy Zachary Rehl, the president of its Philadelphia chapter, was issuing similarly ominous warnings and threats, according to prosecutors: “Hopefully the firing squads are for the traitors that are trying to steal the election from the American people,” he wrote on Nov. 27, 2020. “[S]ome people at the highest levels need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three.”
More Stop the Steal rallies were held in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, two days before Presidential electors were to meet in state capitals to formalize the results of the 2020 election in their states. Speakers included Roger Stone, Proud Boy chairman Tarrio, Proud Boy elder Nordean, Oath Keeper founder Rhodes and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Rhodes’s message was, again, paranoid and unhinged. He urged Trump to release Julian Assange and “put him in charge of a data dump” in order to:
show the world who the traitors are, and then use the Insurrection Act to drop the hammer on them. And all us veterans who swore that oath, until you’re age 65, you can be called up as the militia, to support and defend the Constitution. He needs to know from you that you are with him, that if he does not do it now, while he is commander in chief, we’re going to have to do it ourselves later, in a much more desperate, much more bloody war. Let’s get it on now while he is still the commander in chief. At the rally, Rhodes’s Oath Keepers provided security for Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pardoned, former national security advisor. By then, Flynn was also calling for imposition of an at least “limited” form of martial law, with the military seizing voting devices and running a do-over election.
On Dec. 14, when each state certified its own electoral college votes, Rhodes published a screed entitled, “Open Letter to President Trump: You Must Use the Insurrection Act to ‘Stop the Steal’ and Defeat the Coup”:
You must act NOW as a wartime President, pursuant to your oath to defend the Constitution. . . . We are already in a fight. It’s better to wage it with you as Commander-in-Chief than to have you comply with a fraudulent election, leave office, and leave the White House in the hands of illegitimate usurpers and Chinese puppets. Please don’t do it. Do NOT concede, and do NOT wait until January 20, 2021. Strike now. . . . If you fail to act while you are still in office, we the people will have to fight a bloody civil war and revolution against these two illegitimate Communist Chinese puppets, and their illegitimate regime.
On Dec. 19, Trump issued perhaps the most momentous dog whistle of his career: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election,” he tweeted. “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
Within minutes, the tweet had been pinned on the home page of TheDonald.win, a site where extremist Trump supporters congregated. One user commented there, “If you’ve been waiting for a signal, THAT’S IT,” according to the civil suit later filed for Capitol Police Office Conrad Smith. “He can’t exactly openly tell you to revolt,” observed another. “This is the closest he’ll ever get.”
Later that same day, Alex Jones told his viewers that Trump’s “will-be-wild” tweet was “one of the most historic events in American history,” likening it to Paul Revere’s ride in 1776. In language later quoted by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol in its November 2021 cover letter to Jones subpoenaing his testimony and pertinent documents, he continued:
He is now calling on We the People to take action and show our numbers. . . . The time for games is over. The time for action is now. … I’ve been on the air for 27 years and I’ve never reported on anything that comes as close to being this huge. This is seismic.
Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs was among the scores of Jan. 6 rioters now facing criminal charges who appear to have taken Trump’s will-be-wild tweet as an invitation to violence. On Facebook he wrote: “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild !!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentleman we are heading to DC pack your shit !!”
For months, the Oath Keepers had been coordinating with one another by holding virtual chat sessions over the GoToMeeting app. After the election, however, many of them stopped using their real names on those channels, and started using pseudonyms. Meggs, for instance, switched to “Gator1;” Ken Harrelson, to “Gator6;” Joseph Hackett, of Sarasota, Fla., became “Ahab.”
By late December, the GoToMeeting channels had taken on names like “se leaders dc 1/6/21 op call” and “florida dc op planning chat.”
Toward the end of December, the Oath Keepers set up invitation-only chat groups on the encrypted Signal app to supplement their communications. One Signal channel, used by at least 10 leadership-level Oath Keepers—including Rhodes, Watkins and Meggs—was called “DC OP: Jan 6, 21.” A second, Florida-centric Signal chat group, consisting of at least nine Oath Keepers—including Meggs, Harrelson and Hackett—was called “OK FL DC OP Jan 6.”
Oath Keeper Hackett became particularly meticulous about secrecy during this period, according to prosecutors. When he used the Oath Keeper GoToMeeting channels, he’d sign in—under his Ahab pseudonym—through a virtual private network (VPN). Instead of placing calls or texts through his ordinary carrier, AT&T/TracFone, he used an app on his iPhone called TextMe. He then associated his Signal account with his TextMe phone number, rather than his AT&T number. His TextMe account was, in turn, registered to his encrypted Protonmail email address, which was listed under a false name, John Willow. Hackett also advised fellow Oath Keepers that when they sent plans on Signal, they should write them out longhand on a scrap of paper and then send a photo of the piece of paper. “Messages in cursive to eliminate digital reads,” he explained.
After Trump’s “will-be-wild” tweet, the Oath Keepers began preparing for Jan. 6. On Christmas Day, Meggs wrote on Facebook: “Dc is no guns. So mace and gas masks, some batons. If you have armor that’s good.”
Eventually, it was decided that firearms would be stored with a “quick reaction force” (QRF) just outside D.C. at the Comfort Inn in Ballston. An aging Oath Keeper named Paul—referred to as “Person Three” in the indictment—was eventually chosen to watch over the arsenal there, apparently because he was “too broken down to be on the ground all day,” as Caldwell later put it in a text to Watkins.
At one point, as Jan. 6 approached, Caldwell and Meggs both toyed with the idea of floating the QRF arms across the Potomac to D.C. by boat, if the need arose.
“Can’t believe I just thought of this,” Caldwell wrote to an associate affiliated with the Three Percenters on Jan. 3. (The Three Percenters are a far-right militia group premised on the false belief that only three percent of American colonists actually fought against the British during the Revolutionary War.) “If we had someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms.”
Meggs had discussed a similar notion on the Oath Keepers’ leadership Signal chat channel on Jan. 2:“1 if by land North side of Lincoln Memorial 2 if by sea Corner of west basin and Ohio [Drive] is a water transport landing!! … QRF rally points Water of [sic] the bridges get closed.”
In late December, in one of the Signal chat rooms, Meggs and Rhodes also discussed the need to intimidate Congress:
Meggs: We need to make those senators very uncomfortable with all of us being a few hundred feet away. Our peaceful protests need to have a little more teeth. They aren’t listening. Now we aren’t talking about crossing the line. But we need to be standing on the line!!! It’s all bad from here guys. We need Trump because it will make our jobs easier. There is gonna be blood in the streets no matter what.
Rhodes: I think Congress will screw [Trump] over. The only change [sic] we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time is [sic] they don’t do the right thing. But I don’t think they will listen.
As Jan. 6 approached, Alex Jones hinted that historic bombshells were afoot. On Dec. 29 he told his viewers: “Now I know some incredible information that I am not at liberty to tell you. But I am at liberty to give you a hint, which I don't think is too hard. You notice Trump said, ‘January 6th will be wild in D.C.?’ Well, it will be wild.”
Wild rumors were circulating in right-wing circles. Many Oath Keepers were anticipating Trump’s imminent invocation of the Insurrection Act:
Meggs: Trumps [sic] staying in, he’s gonna use the emergency broadcast system on cell phones to broadcast to the American people. Then he will claim the insurrection act.
[Unidentified interlocutor:] That’s awesome. Any idea when?
Meggs: Next week Then wait for the 6th when we are all in DC to insurrection.
Oath Keeper Watkins texted her fellow Ohio militia member Crowl on Dec. 26: “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come. . . . if Trump activates Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it.”
“It begins for real Jan 5 and 6,” wrote Caldwell on Facebook on Dec. 31, “on [sic] Washington D.C. when we mobilize in thestreets [sic]. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil.”In late December 2020, Kelly Meggs made several references to having struck some sort of alliance with the Proud Boys. “Well, we are ready for the rioters,” Meggs wrote on Facebook on Dec. 19. “[T]his week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys. We have decided to work together to shut this shit down.” He later described the Proud Boys as a “force multiplier,” because “they always have a big group.”
Still, it’s very unclear exactly what sort of alliance—if any—was truly struck. Meggs’s references were vague, and seemed more targeted toward beating up Antifa in West Side Story-style rumbles than toward coordinating an attack on the Capitol. On Christmas Day, for instance, Meggs wrote on Facebook (according to a later government filing):
At night we have orchestrated a plan with the proud boys. I’ve been communicating with [redacted] the leader. 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.
On Dec. 29, Proud Boy chairman Tarrio issued the previously referenced order for his colleagues to remain atypically “incognito” on Jan. 6. That same day, the Proud Boys initiated a new leadership structure called the Ministry of Self Defense, prosecutors allege, consisting of Tarrio, Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and at least one other. To communicate, they set up an encrypted messaging channel on Telegram, called “MOSD”.
Chairman Tarrio’s Jan. 4 arrest appears to have momentarily thrown the Proud Boys’ plans into disarray. Apparently fearful that Tarrio’s phone would be searched, Proud Boy Nordean, of the Seattle chapter, took steps to “nuke” the “MOSD” communications channel and replace it with a “New MOSD,” according to the government. The “New MOSD” participants included Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Charles Donohoe, the head of a Proud Boys chapter in North Carolina.
By that evening, however, the Proud Boys were regaining their footing. An unindicted Proud Boy co-conspirator wrote on the New MOSD channel: “We had originally planned on breaking the guys into teams. Let’s start divvying them up and getting baofeng channels picked out.” (Baofeng is a brand of walkie-talkie type radios.)
The next day, Jan. 5, the Proud Boys created another encrypted messaging channel on Telegram—with over 60 users—called “Boots on the Ground,” according to the government. In the early afternoon, Biggs used it to urge Proud Boys to stay out of trouble that day. “We are trying to avoid getting into any shit tonight,” he posted. “Tomorrow’s the day. . . Just trying to get our numbers. So we can plan accordingly for tonight and tomorrow’s plan.” Later, he reiterated, “We have a plan.”
On the afternoon and evening of Jan. 5, six Oath Keepers protected Roger Stone as he spoke at two rallies, according to the New York Times. They chauffeured him to and from events in a pair of golf carts.
“This is nothing less than an epic struggle for the future of this country between Dark and Light, between the godly and the godless, between Good and Evil,” Stone said at a rally near the White House that day, according to accounts in both the Times and Vice. “And we will win this fight—or America will step off into a thousand years of darkness. We dare not fail! . . . I will be with you tomorrow—shoulder to shoulder!”
Stone was, in fact, scheduled to be a lead speaker the next day, on Jan. 6, at a rally just northeast of the Capitol. That rally was scheduled to start immediately after the Save America rally at the Ellipse, where Trump would speak. The Capitol rally seems to have been envisioned with the notion of luring Trump supporters to march the 1.7 miles from the Ellipse to the Capitol.
The permit for the Capitol rally had been obtained by an organization called One Nation Under God. Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander—who is not mentioned in the permit—has subsequently admitted that he organized it. Though Alexander was already supposed to be present as a VIP in the first row of the Ellipse event, he—like Stone—was also scheduled to be a lead speaker at his own event near the Capitol immediately afterward. Both events were advertised on a web site called WildProtest.com, whose URL had been registered on Dec. 20, 2020, the day after Trump’s “will-be-wild” tweet. As of Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, the text on the WildProtest.com site urged protesters to “take to the US Capitol lawn and steps” (emphasis added)—which was advice to act illegally, since the steps were in the cordoned-off, restricted area. (Alexander has denied any wrongdoing or violent intent that day, and has said that he spoke to the Select Committee on Dec. 9. But he has also sued to try to block the Committee from obtaining his phone records.)
As it happened, Stone did not attend any rallies on Jan. 6. Last month he told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in an interview, “I had a feeling, an intuition. I just did not want to go. I think that God was giving me a signal.”
Asked by Vice News about his role in the events of Jan. 6, Stone denied any responsibility and added: “Since I never left my hotel room at all on January 6, and since I was not at the Capitol and know nothing about the events there, I urge you to be very, very careful.” When the House Select Committee attempted to depose Stone last month, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
On the morning of Jan. 6, the Proud Boys did not attend Trump’s speech near the Ellipse. Instead, they gathered initially at a spot near the Washington Monument, at about 10 a.m., according to the indictment of Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and Donohoe. They then walked to a lawn in an unrestricted area east of the Capitol.
Along the way, a Proud Boy filmmaker, Eddie Block, was livestreaming video to YouTube. The Wall Street Journal and the Times both later analyzed that video, as well as voluminous other publicly available footage and materials.
By about 11:30 a.m., the Proud Boys had recongregated on the lawn east of the Capitol. According to both the Journal and Times, there were about a hundred Proud Boys there. (Despite the “incognito” order, some were wearing matching orange ski hats at that point.)
Standing among the Proud Boys were also some individuals whom the government has not alleged to be members of the group, but who would also later be charged with serious felonies stemming from the insurrection. Robert Gieswein can be seen there, for instance. A 24-year-old Colorado man affiliated with the Three Percenters, Gieswein would later be charged with assaulting police officers with a baseball bat, a chemical irritant aerosol and a bike-rack barrier.
Trump began speaking at the Ellipse at around 11:57 a.m., according to the Washington Post. At some point, the Proud Boys began walking together around the northern perimeter of the Capitol toward the western side. As they walked, Proud Boy Dan Scott—nicknamed Milkshake—could be heard on one video saying, “Let’s take the fucking Capitol,” according to both the Journal and a criminal complaint later lodged against Scott. Someone else than approached the camera and said, “Let’s not fucking yell that, alright?” Proud Boy Nordean then came into view and said, “It was Milkshake, man, you know. Idiot!” Another man then commented, “Don’t yell it. Do it.”
By 12:45 p.m., before Trump had finished his address, the Proud Boys reached a spot northwest of the Capitol known as the Peace Monument, where Pennsylvania Ave. dead-ends into the Capitol grounds. A large crowd was forming there near a thinly guarded barricade that blocked entry to a pedestrian walkway. The walkway led diagonally, in a southeast direction, straight to the west steps of the Capitol Building.
The crowd that gathered at the Peace Monument allegedly included Proud Boys Nordean, Biggs, Rehl, Donohoe, Dan “Milkshake” Scott, Dominic Pezzola, William Pepe, Matthew Greene, William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne, Ryan Ashlock, Louis Colon and others, according to multiple government indictments and complaints.
At 12:53 p.m.—seven minutes before the Joint Session of Congress would be gaveled into session—a man in the crowd named Ryan Samsel had a conversation with Proud Boy Biggs, as, perhaps, first noted by the Journal in its analysis of publicly available video. Immediately following that conversation, Samsel and a second man ventured into the restricted area, striding up to a greatly outmanned line of about five or six Capitol Police officers, according to both the Journal and criminal complaints later filed against each man. The officers were standing behind a barrier of bike racks, joined end to end, reinforced with dark plastic fencing. Samsel and the second man, Grant James, confronted the officers belligerently, with Samsel removing his jacket and turning his red baseball cap backwards. Samsel and James then shook and lifted the barrier, and toppled it over on top of the officers. One female officer fell back and struck her head on the concrete. (Though she remained on duty at the time, an hour later she blacked out and was taken to the hospital with a concussion, according to the criminal complaint against Samsel.)
Later in January, after Samsel’s arrest on felony charges, Samsel told FBI agents that Proud Boy Biggs had incited his actions, as the New York Times’s Alan Feuer first reported. Biggs’s attorney told the Times that Samsel’s account was a “desperate, if wildly entertaining, false history.”
With the first barrier now toppled, the crowd—including more than a dozen Proud Boys—streamed across it and past the officers down the walkway toward the west Capitol steps. An individual described in the Nordean indictment as “UCC-1”—meaning an unindicted co-conspirator—wrote on the Proud Boys’ Telegram channel, “Storming the capital [sic] building right now!” and “Get There,” according to prosecutors.
Closer to the Capitol, the mob encountered a second barrier. Proud Boys Nordean, Biggs, Pepe and Ashlock played direct, physical roles in tearing it down, according to their respective indictments or criminal complaints.
Then, for maybe a half hour, a police line held the rioters at an impasse at the base of the Capitol.
At 1 p.m., Vice President Pence officially gave notice, in a tweet, that he viewed his role that day as largely “ceremonial,” and that he would not unilaterally reject the results of the swing states’ popular elections.
At around the same time, according to the Washington Post, Trump was nearing the end of his speech at the Ellipse. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he told the crowd. “We are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue—I love Pennsylvania Avenue—and we are going to the Capitol.”
At this time, Oath Keepers began to depart the Ellipse area in tactical gear, news media analyses have shown. (Most of the Oath Keepers appear to have attended the Ellipse rally, where some of them, like Watkins, have said they were providing security for VIPs. Several other Oath Keepers appear to have initially gone to the Willard Hotel, where Roger Stone was staying, but to have later returned to their hotels.)
At 1:25 p.m., Oath Keeper founder Rhodes wrote in the leadership’s Signal chat channel, “Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted.”
About 10 minutes later, Rhodes added, “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough.” And 10 minutes after that, Rhodes wrote that he was on his way to the Capitol.
At about 1:37 p.m., there was a breakthrough in the impasse at the western base of the Capitol. Proud Boy Dan “Milkshake” Scott was “one of the first, or perhaps the first,” rioter to “initiate contact with law enforcement at this location,” according to the criminal complaint against him. He allegedly pushed two officers backwards, up the steps, and then pulled one of them into the crowd. Soon thereafter, rioters began pushing their way up a staircase under the inaugural scaffolding.
At 1:50 p.m., Oath Keeper Watkins was apparently still walking toward the Capitol with a group of other Oath Keepers. She was recorded then speaking to her “reports” over a walkie-talkie-style phone app called Zello, according to the government. The Zello channel was called “Stop the Steal J6.”
“We have a good group,” she said. “We have 30-40 of us. We are sticking to plan.” Someone responded, “We’ll see you soon, Jess. Airborne.”
(Watkins’s attorney has maintained that the government’s timeline is wrong, and that this Zello conversation occurred much earlier in the morning. The “plan” referred to was simply to provide security at the Ellipse rally, her attorney has maintained.)
At 2 p.m., Watkins reported that she was “one block away from the Capitol,” adding: “I’m probably gonna go silent when we get there, because I’m gonna be a little busy.”
Three minutes later, according to prosecutors, the “administrator” of the Zello channel Watkins was using—the person is not further identified—announced: “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.”
By about 2:00 p.m., according to both news media analyses and criminal complaints, the mob had reached the Capitol’s upper west terrace. Proud Boys Donohoe and Pezzola were allegedly among these rioters, as was Gieswein, the Three Percenter with the baseball bat.
At 2:13 p.m., Proud Boy Pezzola, who had stolen a police officer’s riot shield, allegedly used it to smash out a window pane, while another rioter shattered the adjoining pane with a wooden plank. A Kentucky man was allegedly the first rioter to climb through that window, but Pezzola and Gieswein followed suit moments later, according to prosecutors. After a rioter forced open the adjacent door from the inside, many more rioters poured in. Within two minutes, Proud Boys Biggs, Pepe, Arthur Jackman, Gilbert Garcia and Joshua Pruitt had all entered.
Once inside, some of the Proud Boys allegedly made incriminating videos. One made by Gilbert Garcia allegedly shows an “aggressive confrontation” with police officers, and features Garcia boasting, “We went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly.” He can later be heard berating police officers as “fucking traitors” while instructing other rioters to pull a person who had been grabbed by officers out of their clutches. Garcia is so close to the officers that “their names are clearly visible in the video” from their badges. He turns the camera to the crowd and yells, “Keep ‘em coming. Keem ‘em coming. Storm this shit.” Later still, one of Garcia’s recordings allegedly catches his own voice calling through the halls, “Nancy come out to play,” “Nancy,” “Whose house?,” and “Free Enrique.”
Proud Boys allegedly did additional damage once inside the building. William Chrestman, Christopher Kuehne, Louis Colon and Cory and Felicia Konold are charged with having helped disable crash barriers that were designed to descend from the ceiling, and which police were trying to deploy to halt rioters’ progress. Two other Proud Boys or associates—the brothers Jonathanpeter Klein and Matthew Klein—exited the building and then allegedly forced open another door, on the north side, in an effort to allow still more rioters to enter.
High-ranking Oath Keeper Michael Simmons learned about the breach of the Capitol’s western face, spearheaded by Proud Boys, about one minute after it happened. At 2:14 p.m., he posted to the Oath Keepers’ leadership Signal chat channel: “The[y] have taken ground at the capital [sic] We need to regroup any members who are not on the mission.”
Simmons has not been charged with any offense, but is alluded to in the main Oath Keeper indictment as Person Ten. Like Rhodes, he is believed to have always stayed on the lawful side of the fencing marking the Capitol’s restricted perimeter that day.
But like Rhodes, Simmons allegedly had access to the leadership’s Signal channel, and was in telephone contact with certain Oath Keepers while these events were playing out. Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., for instance, he had 10 telephone calls with Oath Keeper Joshua James (who appears to have been one of those assigned to guard Stone) and two with Rhodes. Rhodes, in turn, allegedly had two calls with Oath Keeper Meggs, one of which became a conference call with Simmons. (Interviewed by the FBI this past May, Simmons denied that he or, to his knowledge, any Oath Keeper ever planned or contemplated violence or wrongdoing on Jan. 6.)
After receiving Simmons’s Signal post about the Capitol breach, Rhodes immediately reposted it and added the note: “Come to the South Side of the Capitol on steps.” He appended a photo showing the southeast side of the Capitol.
By that time, only two Oath Keepers were trespassing on restricted grounds, according to the government, and none had yet breached the building. The two in a restricted area, Jason Dolan and Ken Harrelson, had made their way to the top of the Capitol steps on the eastern side—which had not yet been breached.
Five Oath Keepers who had been on the Roger Stone detail—now back at their own hotels—learned of the breach at 2:16 p.m., according to prosecutors. One of them, Roberto Minuta, 36, of Prosper, Tex., was overheard saying, “Now we’re talking. That’s what I came up here for.” These five suited up in tactical gear and began heading for the Capitol. They were joined en route by a sixth Oath Keeper, Jonathan Walden, 46, of Birmingham, Ala., who had with him his 82-pound German Shepherd, Warrior.
Another 13 Oath Keepers, including Watkins and Meggs, entered restricted Capitol grounds at about 2:22 p.m., according to prosecutors, though their precise whereabouts have not been alleged.
Two minutes after that, Rhodes texted Meggs, instructing him to go to the “SOUTH side of US Capitol,” adding, “That’s where I am going. To link up with [Simmons].” A minute later, Rhodes reforwarded Simmons’s Signal message about the breach—“the[y] have taken ground at the capital [sic]”—together with the photo showing where to head on the southeastern side.
At 2:26 p.m., the group of 13 Oath Keepers—including Meggs and Watkins—were walking around the north exterior of the Capitol toward the eastern side, according to the indictment.
Minuta’s group of Oath Keepers was evidently still trying to catch up. They were driving through traffic in two golf carts—presumably the ones they’d used to chauffeur Stone around the day before—“at times swerving around law enforcement vehicles,” according to the government. Minuta allegedly made statements then that are quoted in the indictment, although it’s unclear whether they were written or oral, or how they were recorded:
Patriots are storming the Capitol building; there’s violence against patriots by the D.C. Police; so we’re in route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now. … it’s going down guys; it’s literally going down right now Patriots storming the Capitol building … fucking war in the streets right now. … word is they got in the building. … let’s go.
At about 2:35 p.m., at least 12 Oath Keepers—including Watkins, Meggs, Crowl and Hackett—scaled the eastern steps of the Capitol in stack formation. Video footage shows that the two other Oath Keepers already at the top—Harrelson and Dolan—are motioning their colleagues to join them.
There, according to the government, the 14 Oath Keepers joined the mob as it “assaulted the officers guarding the doors, threw objects and sprayed chemicals toward the officers . . . and pulled violently on the doors.” They allegedly joined in the pushing and shoving and, at 2:39 p.m., the east side Rotunda door was breached. Watkins would later brag in a Parler post that their entry had been “Forced. Like rugby.” (Portions of the breach—amid blaring alarm bells and chants of “treason, treason”—were captured on YouTube video, surveillance video and, allegedly, by a three-minute-plus video taken by Oath Keeper Harrelson himself.)
At 2:44 p.m., Watkins reported triumphantly on her Zello channel: “We are in the main dome now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here.”
Someone who, according to the government, had “participated in at least one prior Oath Keeper operation with Watkins” responded: “Get it, Jess. Do your fucking thing. This is what we fucking [unintelligible] up for. Everything we fucking trained for.” Minuta’s contingent finally breached the Capitol at about 3:15 p.m., and the last of them—Walden and his dog, Warrior—were not flushed from the building by police officers until about 3:35 p.m.
A little after 4 p.m., at least 16 Oath Keepers huddled together with Rhodes and Simmons at the northeast corner of the Capitol, on the lawful side of the fencing about 100 feet from the building, according to both the indictment and to video analyses by news media.
Later that evening, Simmons, Rhodes and several other Oath Keepers had dinner together at an Olive Garden restaurant near their hotel in Virginia, according to two interviews Simmons gave to the FBI this past May. During that FBI interview, Simmons maintained, however, that he had never realized that any Oath Keeper had entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 until he was either driving home to Indiana later that night or the next day.
This account is necessarily biased, in that it relies overwhelmingly on prosecutors’ accusations against nearly 40 individuals who have denied any wrongdoing and not yet had a chance to provide their own accounts. As these cases come to trial in the months ahead, it will become possible to flesh out the outline of events offered here. Doubtless, there will be surprises, and some people may have been maligned in this very rough draft of history.
Still, not all of the surprises to come will necessarily be exculpatory. Four originally charged Oath Keeper co-conspirators are already cooperating, as is one Proud Boy co-conspirator, and perhaps others will be persuaded to join them. Their accounts, too—also not yet heard—will make valuable contributions to future narratives.
In addition, the many civil suits that have already been filed concerning these same events—by injured police officers, by members of Congress and by the District of Columbia—will unearth still more valuable information through the civil discovery process, as will the ongoing work of the House Select Committee.
In due time, we will know much more about the roles of those who have been criminally charged and—far more importantly—those who have not been.