Social media users are claiming a video from January 6, 2021 shows an Antifa flag waving inside the US Capitol, suggesting left-wing, anti-fascist agitators infiltrated the mob of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the building. This is false; the banner bears the logo for "America First," the far-right livestream show and movement led by white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
"Someone needs to ask Christopher Wray again... Why was ANTIFA inside the Capitol building on January 6th before any MAGA protesters ever entered?" says a November 26, 2023 post on X, formerly Twitter.
Wray, the FBI director, said soon after the attack that there was no evidence of participation from Antifa -- a loose coalition of anti-fascist activists -- in the violent attempt to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory.
Similar claims spread across X, joining a flood of conspiratorial posts about undercover federal agents and left-wing activists that have surged since House Speaker Mike Johnson ordered hours of security footage released in November 2023. The video has also circulated on TikTok, though the original is no longer available.
But the clip -- which shows a flag waving in a distant window -- does not show the insignia for left-leaning Antifa, which US conservatives commonly blame for unrest.
"That is the flag commonly associated with the 'America First' video program by the same name," said Megan Squire, deputy director for data analytics and open-source intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in a December 5 email.
Heidi Beirich, co-director of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, also told AFP her nonprofit's researchers were "certain" the video shows an "America First" banner.
Fuentes has championed the Capitol attack, hawked Trump's false claims of fraud, marched at the deadly 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia and likened himself to Adolf Hitler. His followers call themselves "Groypers," a reference to a far-right meme, according to the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League (archived here and here).
Trump, who is slated to go on trial in March on charges of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results, drew bipartisan backlash after he had dinner at his Florida resort with Fuentes and rapper Kanye West.
"They've got this completely wrong," Beirich said of the Antifa claims in a December 5 email. "Fuentes is a white supremacist, anti-Semite and Holocaust denier who shockingly once was invited to dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Fuentes' movement is one of the larger white supremacist groups in the US. It is the opposite of an anti-fascist group."
'America First' flags at CapitolMore than 1,200 people have been arrested in connection with the attack on the Capitol, including several rioters identified in court documents as followers of Fuentes (archived here, here and here).
Among them were Christian Secor from Costa Mesa, California and Brandon Cavanaugh from Huntington Beach, California, both of whom supported Fuentes and according to court filings carried flags bearing the far-right host's "America First" emblem into the building (archived here and here).
AFP also captured photos showing "America First" flags in the crowd.
A judge sentenced Secor in October 2022 to 42 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting (archived here).
His signed statement of offense says he walked throughout the Capitol, including through then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi's office suite, before enabling other rioters to enter by helping push open doors that were being guarded by police (archived here).
Cavanaugh, meanwhile, was sentenced in April 2023 to 14 days of intermittent confinement and 24 months of probation (archived here). He had pleaded guilty to one charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
A former systems engineering intern with NASA, Cavanaugh videotaped himself as he entered and walked around the Capitol, according to his signed statement of offense (archived here). He identified online as a "Groyper" (archived here).
Fuentes himself was on the Capitol grounds as the chaos unfolded.
He received a subpoena in January 2022 from the House committee that investigated the attack, with Congressman Bennie Thompson citing photos and videos showing "America First" followers in and near the Capitol in his letter (archived here).
No evidence of Antifa involvementActivists affiliated with Antifa have been known to carry banners bearing a different emblem, seen below, which features images of a black flag beside a red flag.
The flag in the video online is "not an Antifa flag," said Rutgers University's Mark Bray, the author of a book on the movement.
"We currently have data on over 1,100 individuals charged by the FBI, DC Police or US Capitol Police for their role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. None have ties to Antifa," Ruby said in a December 1 email, adding that court documents show several rioters have personally refuted claims that Antifa was involved.
AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Capitol riot here.