Politics

Arizona Protesters Fury Stoked by Right-Wing Politicians before and after U.S. Capitol Riot

Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol
Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol Blink O'Fanaye via Flickr
A year ago, today, the world watched events unravel at the U.S. Capitol as if in a stupor.

The images made no sense. The live television images were a portrait of dissonance.

Rioters storming the symbolic cathedral of democracy. Not foreign invaders. Americans.

Even as — and specifically because — lawmakers inside were trying to certify a free, fair election and the peaceful transfer of power in the world's longest-lasting republic.

The rioters shouted rallying cries, believing their act of insurrection was really a deeply patriotic duty. They likened it to Valley Forge and Bunker Hill.

The split-screen images on TV were even more bewildering. On one side, U.S. Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona arguing that the election that sent him back to office should be nullified by the will of Congress.

On the other side, rioters reaching the door to the chamber in which he spoke. At that exact moment.

The rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 last year and Arizona conservatives in the same building had the same aim: overturn the results of the election and keep Donald Trump in power. History will record that the attack on democracy that day had deep roots in Arizona.

What follows is a chronicle of that history, as we know it today. Federal prosecutors have pursued seven Arizonans for charges ranging from disorderly conduct to assault with a deadly weapon. To date, only one has been sentenced.

Joe Biden won by 7 million votes and by 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. But for months after the November 2020 election, several outspoken Republicans stoked the fire of hate groups through social media and live speeches claiming widespread fraud, even as court after court rejected those claims.

When violence did break out, those same Republicans renounced the riot, at first. Some have since backpedaled.

Gosar was in the middle of his speech on the U.S. House floor when the noise of a raucous crowd erupted behind the chamber doors. The mob had arrived. Lawmakers scurried as Gosar was in mid-sentence.

click to enlarge U.S. Congressman for Arizona Paul Gosar - GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
U.S. Congressman for Arizona Paul Gosar
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Gosar planted seeds of doubt spewing false information like 30,000 "illegal aliens" voting in Arizona to question the integrity of the free and fair election. He falsely testified more than 400,000 mail-in ballots were changed after votes were cast — either votes for Trump were switched to Biden or Trump's name was erased.

Joe Biden won the election in Arizona by 10,500 votes. Courts and a series of audits reconfirmed the outcome. On January 5, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the presidential election. All eight lawsuits filed by conservative backers challenging the election integrity failed in court.

Even the Republican-funded audit of Arizona's votes in Maricopa County found that Biden won and no fraud was found. Arizona lawsuits related to the claim that ballot workers were changing votes were dismissed in Maricopa County's Arizona Superior Court in mid-November 2020.

"Winning the megamillions lottery is more probable," Gosar said about the chances of accurate election results.

He was rehashing a claim made by one of the five dozen failed lawsuits challenging the election, which Trump's own officials testified were the safest and most secure in history. In this case, brought before the U.S. Supreme Court by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Trump allies made the baseless claim that he had a one in four quadrillion chance of losing Georgia after pulling ahead earlier in the counting.

The odds that he lost four such states were longer than winning the Powerball jackpot every day for a week, by that logic. The Supreme Court refused to hear the meritless claim.

Two of Arizona's Republican delegates to Congress joined in an amicus brief supporting the case: U.S. Representatives Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich chose not to join 17 Republican attorneys general in support of the case.

The same day he echoed that claim, Gosar pushed Biden to concede the election — pumping the Stop the Steal hashtag.

"I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don't make me come over there," Gosar wrote.

Even after the rioters were removed and people died, Gosar simply plowed through his remarks seemingly unfazed by the attack on democracy. He, Biggs, and Lesko all voted to reject the certified Electoral College results of Arizona's election.

U.S. Representative David Schweikert was the only Republican in Arizona's delegation to accept the outcome. In total, 121 Republicans voted to nullify Arizona's vote — 57 percent of all of the House GOP members. No Democrat did.

The effort to thwart Arizona voters failed 303 to 122.

Not Your Average Protest

At least 10 Arizona residents trekked to Washington, D.C., seeking to "Stop the Steal" of the presidential election to keep Trump in the Oval Office and got busted.

More than 700 violent protesters — many belonging to extremist groups — were key in the failed coup to re-elect Trump.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, the Phoenix man also known as Jake Angeli, was one of the most recognizable faces of the riot. Known as the QAnon Shaman, Chansley was a regular protester in Phoenix who brought his antics to the January 6 insurrection.
click to enlarge The January 6 riot inside the U.S. Capitol. - DOJ
The January 6 riot inside the U.S. Capitol.
DOJ

He shouted wartime slogans into a bullhorn and led the pack of the first 30 people inside the U.S. Senate chamber. Chansley stood out. He wore fur, face paint, and a helmet with horns, posing as a prophet of sorts in the fringe movement. Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theories were convinced that the nation would be controlled by a cabal of Satanic pedophiles if Trump was removed from office.

Chansley told the FBI he was a member of the Arizona Patriots, a conservative anti-immigrant hate group, court records show. He made the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., alongside other Arizona Patriots, because Trump beckoned "all patriots" to gather in the nation's capital.

He scrawled an ominous note for then-vice president Mike Pence "It's Only A Matter Of Time. Justice Is Coming!" left at his podium, court records show. Pence was swiftly evacuated from the Senate chamber when the rioters infiltrated the building.

Chansley pleaded guilty to a litany of felony charges, including violent entry into a federal building, civil disorder, and obstruction of official proceedings.

He's now serving a 41-month stint in federal prison followed by 36 months of supervised probation.

He's also on the hook for $2,000 in repairs out of $1.4 million in damages to the U.S. Capitol.

Peddling Distrust

Weeks before the riot, Biggs revved up a crowd of conservatives during a rally to "Stop the Socialist Takeover" stumping for his fellow Republicans in Georgia.

"If you sit on your butt at home, it doesn't make a bit of difference," Biggs said, pushing residents to vote.

Failure wasn't an option during the presidential election, he said.
click to enlarge U.S. Congressman for Arizona Andy Biggs - GAGE SKIDMORE
U.S. Congressman for Arizona Andy Biggs
Gage Skidmore

"Future elections won't know what freedom is if we lose this election. That's the bottom line," Biggs said.

On January 6, Biggs claimed that more than 32,000 voters registered in Maricopa County after the regular voting deadline. A judge imposed a new extended deadline after a lawsuit was filed. The whole process was rife with fraud, he claimed.

"In Arizona, the people who control the evidence related to the election have done everything possible to prevent an independent audit," Biggs said on the U.S. House floor on January 6.

The Arizona lawsuit seeking to decertify the state's election results was dismissed in U.S. District Court by early December 2020.

His colleague, Lesko, urged supporters to get active after the presidential election
click to enlarge U.S. Congresswoman for Arizona Debbie Lesko - COURTESY OF DEBBIE LESKO
U.S. Congresswoman for Arizona Debbie Lesko
Courtesy of Debbie Lesko
 results had rolled in.

"We must fight back against socialism and HOLD THE LINE in Washington D.C.," Lesko wrote on Twitter in late December.
She knew there would be issues with crowds during certification on January 6, but underestimated the outcome.

"I predicted that there would be a problem, but I could not predict the magnitude of what happened today," Lesko said.


Conspiracy Theorists Abound

Queen Creek resident Anthime Joseph Gionet spouted neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on the internet as an alt-right troll, federal law enforcement officials claimed. Gionet, known as Baked Alaska online, was arrested in Houston for his role in the January 6 riot. He was charged with violent entry and federal trespassing.


The 34-year-old hails from Anchorage but made his home in the Valley. Gionet was later arrested in Scottsdale after macing a bouncer outside Giligin's Bar and Shrimp Hut in Old Town in mid-December, prosecutors claimed in court.

He was found guilty of assault, disorderly conduct, and criminal trespassing and is slated to be sentenced this month by Scottsdale City Court. Gionet had marched with Nazis during the torch-lit rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

click to enlarge Anthime Joseph Gionet, a.k.a. Baked Alaska - SCREENSHOT
Anthime Joseph Gionet, a.k.a. Baked Alaska
Screenshot

In 2019, he tweeted that Jewish people should be sent to the gas chambers. He's since been banned on some social media sites. During the riots at the U.S. Capitol, he went live on YouTube for 27 minutes.

"Occupy the Capitol, let's go," he said during the video. "We ain't leaving this bitch."

Gionet was released on bail and is waiting for his federal trial and municipal sentencing. Still, last month the Maricopa County Attorney's Office claimed he defaced a Hanukkah display in front of the Arizona State Capitol and charged him with multiple counts of criminal damage.

Baked Alaska wasn't the only riot suspect with priors.

Valley resident Nathan Wayne Entrekin took a road trip in his car 2,200 miles to join the January 6 rioters wearing a gladiator costume. The 48-year-old Entrekin has lived in Cottonwood, Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe, records show.

The FBI arrested Entrekin in mid-July for his role in the January riot. He was charged with violent entry and trespassing on federal property. He had been arrested before, in 2015, suspected of making threats and fighting.

During the attack on Capitol Hill, he brandished a wooden staff, according to court records. A federal judge questioned his mental state.
click to enlarge Nathan Wayne Entrekin dressed as a gladiator on January 6 - DOJ
Nathan Wayne Entrekin dressed as a gladiator on January 6
DOJ

Entrekin recorded a video where he claimed to be a religious character from the Book of Mormon, a sacred text in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I am Captain Moroni," Entrekin said, then told a fellow protester, "Yeah, this is Captain Moroni of the Book of Mormon."

He was released into his mother's custody to a shared home outside of Sedona several months ago. Upon his release, he promised to receive a mental health evaluation and not attend any gatherings of 20 or more people.

"Mom, look, I made it to the top," he said in the video. "I'm here for Trump. Four more years, Donald Trump! Our rightful president!"

Entrekin pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge and admitted to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol in mid-January. Entrekin faces 6 months in prison.

Entrekin told the FBI he is a member of the Mormon church, court records show. The church vehemently condemns violence and lawlessness.

That appeared to be less of a problem on January 6 for the Proud Boys of Arizona, which was represented at the riot by Micajah Joel Jackson, according to the FBI. The 25-year-old Phoenix resident was arrested in mid-May.

Jackson pleaded guilty to one of the four charges against him in a plea deal: protesting and picketing inside the Capitol. The more serious charges, including violence in a restricted building, were dropped. Jackson is slated to be sentenced for his role in the riot by the end of February and faces a maximum of six months in prison. Jackson has since vehemently denied connection to the neo-fascist, alt-right white supremacist group.

And yet, he told FBI agents that the orange armband he wore was given to him by the Proud Boys in Arizona before his solo journey to Washington, D.C.

"I am being politically persecuted by the FBI," Jackson wrote on a social media feed before he was charged, according to evidence submitted in court by the Justice Department.

He added he didn't affiliate with the Proud Boys, but was with them that day "for protection." "I committed no violence. I never touched one cop. I never vandalize property either," Jackson wrote."I am not an extremist nor a violent person. I am a devoted Lutheran ... My only love is the United States of America."

Jackson spoke at the "Justice for J6" rally in Phoenix in September, which was heavily attended by Proud Boys and other extremists. Jackson described himself and a group of friends on social media as "the Boyz...Arizona's Patrol Squad" and his close connections used the Proud Boys hashtag.

Stumping For Trump

Republican Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem from District 11, which stretches along from Marana to Casa Grande, was spotted at the Trump rally nearby the U.S. Capitol on January 6, social media photos show.


Representative Finchem was slated to give a speech during the "Stop the Steal" rally, but it never happened, since he was "swept up" in the crowd, according to text messages obtained by Phoenix New Times. Finchem coordinated with a man who claimed to orchestrate the January 6 riot and strategized social media messages.

click to enlarge Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem - GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

"Nothing says support like millions of people blocking streets. So Congress is forced to pay attention," Finchem wrote. "Tweet just went out."

Likewise, former Arizona State Representative Anthony Kern, who represented parts of Glendale and northwest Phoenix in District 20 until last year, was seen on the steps of the U.S. Capitol the day of the January 6 riot, video shows.

Kern has stoked the "Stop the Steal" fire on social media and posted a photo of himself at the Trump rally.

click to enlarge Former Arizona State Representative Anthony Kern - GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
Former Arizona State Representative Anthony Kern
Gage Skidmore/Flickr

"D-Day in DC to support Arizona's and America's duly elected President Donald Trump!" he wrote on Twitter.

Both representatives voted in favor of the discredited Arizona election results audit that was conducted by the CyberNinjas.

Arizona State Republican Senate President Karen Fann led the authorization of the election audit backed by the GOP and communicated directly to strategize with both then-president Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Caught on Camera

Also at the U.S. Capitol a year ago were Tucson residents Cory and Felicia Konold. Both were arrested in mid-February on a slew of federal charges, including possession of deadly weapons inside a restricted building.


The siblings, who are 26 and 27 respectively, were charged alongside three other accused rioters from other states because the pair coordinated with others in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors allege.

According to an affidavit, the siblings worked in tandem to topple metal barricades and are seen on images in court filings propping open a roll-up metal door to ease access into the Capitol building. The pair is linked to the Proud Boys hate group, according to court documents.
click to enlarge January 6 rioter Cory Konold - DOJ
January 6 rioter Cory Konold
DOJ

While it's a men's-only group, Felicia bragged that she was recruited by the organization and was spotted fraternizing with some of its leaders. Felicia posted a Snapchat story after returning to Arizona where she called herself a "leader," according to court documents.

In one online video post, prosecutors claim, Felicia displayed what they call a "challenge coin" given to members in the Kansas City branch of the Proud Boys. An image filed in court clearly shows the group's insignia and identification.

Neither of the Konolds is in custody as they await trial. But one of their Tucson neighbors is behind bars waiting for his.

James Burton McGrew hit a law enforcement officer and lunged for his baton, according to body camera footage from the January 6 riot and court documents.

He "aggressively approached law enforcement officers," the FBI said, before giving them orders to leave. McGrew, a Tucson native, is facing eight federal charges from assaulting an officer to acts of physical violence. He was arrested in Glendale in late May. He remains in custody.

Not every defendant connected to the Valley is a resident here.

A South Carolina man connected to the insurrection was nabbed in Arizona. He's one of the few who has been sentenced so far. Andrew Hatley was arrested in mid-January in Eloy, just southeast of Casa Grande. In March, he pleaded not guilty to the four charges against him, including violent entry and disruptive conduct.

Then, in September, he accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to one count of parading inside a capitol building. In court records, prosecutors claim Hatley lied on Facebook, saying he hadn't left South Carolina and that "someone who looks like me" was participating in the attack on the Capitol.

The FBI used geodata from a mobile phone application to confirm he was in Washington, D.C., during the riots, according to court documents. The 34-year-old was sentenced to three years' probation on December 16.

click to enlarge Andrew Hatley inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6 - DOJ
Andrew Hatley inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6
DOJ

The court considered that Hatley, who weighs over 300 pounds and was unarmed, was not fit to cause significant damage, and that his role in the insurrection was "minimal," according to a report from The State, a Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper.

His arrest warrant does not specify why he was in Arizona. Three other Valley residents were charged in connection with the insurrection, but aren't facing federal prosecution, arrest records show.

Timothy Austfjord, 58, of Mesa; Joshua Knowles, 32, of Gilbert; and Marsha Murphy, 51, formerly of Avondale, were all arrested by District of Columbia police in connection with the January 6 riots, and charged in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia with mostly minor offenses, notably curfew violations.

Their names do not appear on the U.S. Department of Justice's database of Capitol breach cases.

Knowles was charged with a curfew violation and unlawful entry. He pled not guilty and on November 5 he demanded a jury trial, which has not yet been slated. He's due back in court on January 28. Previously, Knowles had served 18 months in prison and was fined $9,200 after pleading guilty to a felony drug trafficking charge in an unrelated case in Maricopa County in 2009. He has also been convicted of a slew of misdemeanors, including reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors in D.C. charged Murphy with a curfew violation and unlawful entry. She studied at Grand Canyon University and is a devout Trump supporter. She also demanded a jury trial but changed her mind when she pled guilty to the charges against her on December 13.

Her sentencing has not been scheduled yet. Austfjord was charged with a curfew violation, which was later dropped.

Two more rioters with ties to Arizona were arrested. Klete Derik Keller is a former Olympic athlete turned Colorado Springs-based real estate broker who pleaded guilty and is waiting to be sentenced. And Texas resident Ryan Scott Zink, the son of Jeff Zink who is running for Congress for Arizona's District 7 which includes Phoenix and parts of Glendale, was arrested for his role in the riot and pleaded guilty waiting to be sentenced.

A year has passed since the violence at the Capitol thrust into the spotlight these Arizona rioters and the lawmakers who spurred them. Many have gotten on with their lives.

Others are contemplating their fate and their feelings toward the federal government.

Meanwhile, other investigations into the riot continue.

Six months in, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January Sixth Attack on the United States Capitol has issued around four dozen subpoenas, including to members of Trump's inner circle, extremist groups, and others.

An interim report is promised in the summer, according to media reports. Watch closely for the Arizona links uncovered by committee investigators. We will.
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Kristen Mosbrucker is the news editor of Phoenix New Times. Mosbrucker is a journalist who hails from the Northeast but has spent much of her career over the past decade across the South. She has interviewed everyone from business executives to homeless folks. She's covered business on the Texas-Mexico border in deep South Texas for the McAllen Monitor, technology and the defense industry in San Antonio for American City Business Journals, and the petrochemical industry in Louisiana for The Advocate newspaper. Early in her career, she spearheaded hyperlocal community news coverage for an NPR member station in Philadelphia.
Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss