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Far-Right Groups Plan To Commemorate Jan. 6 Attack — With Events Celebrating Attackers

This Thursday, Jan. 6, members of the Republican Party in Cobb County, Georgia, will join people around the country in commemorating the anniversary of the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol with a somber remembrance.

Except it will honor those allegedly behind the attack, hailed as “patriots” and “political prisoners” in far-right circles for storming the Capitol in an attempt to keep Joe Biden from becoming the next president.

The Cobb County Republicans are planning a candlelight vigil for the “J6 Patriots held in DC prisons.” The event will also feature the founder of Women for America First, the group that hosted the D.C. rally with former President Donald Trump that preceded the attack.

But celebrating those behind the disturbing events last year is too much even for some Georgia Republicans, who have watched their party become more extreme since Trump lost the state and made it a target for his election lies and grievances.

“When I first saw this, I was in such disbelief that I had to fact check it … ” TJ Dearman, chairman of the GOP in Jackson County, Georgia, wrote on Facebook.

He said the Cobb County GOP event isn’t meant to “honor the officers who were brutally assaulted for hours but to honor the ‘patriots’ who are being held as ‘political prisoners.’ My definition of patriotism isn’t beating police in an attempt to overthrow the US government but maybe I’m just another brainwashed rino (sic),” referring to the disparaging acronym, “Republican In Name Only.”

Oath Keepers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Manuel Balce Ceneta via Associated Press

Nearly two dozen similar pro-insurrectionist gatherings are happening across the country to mark the Jan. 6 anniversary, including events promoted by Proud Boys and other extreme far-right actors, according to Carla Hill, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“These events that portray insurgents as patriots, martyrs, freedom fighters, political prisoners … it’s a continuation of a broad scale conspiratorial campaign that deflects the blame from those responsible for Jan. 6,” Hill told HuffPost. “This narrative just demonstrates an unwillingness to own up to the fact that this is a move away from democratic norms and values by claiming these people were all victims rather than perpetrators.”

Dearman, a 25-year-old who doubled down on his public post in a statement to HuffPost, wrote “the martyring of January 6th is wrong and more Republican leaders need to call it out.”

Whereas Republicans condemned the insurrection and even Trump in its immediate aftermath, the GOP has since downplayed the day’s events. In May, Georgia Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde equated the attack to a “normal tourist visit.” Trump and his allies in Congress have refused to cooperate with the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, characterizing it as a partisan “witch hunt” targeting Republicans.

“There was a stronger outrage for what happened, and that slowly dissolved into support for [the attackers] from the extreme far-right and even political leaders from one party,” Hill said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), whose district will soon include Cobb County, is a leading far-right voice in support of the accused Jan. 6 attackers — whom Greene calls “political prisoners,” a term that refers to people imprisoned for their political beliefs. Greene has discussed visiting the “patriot wing” of the D.C. jail where defendants are being held until their trials.

Look Ahead America, a right-wing organization run by a short-lived Trump campaign staffer, is behind most of the pro-insurrectionist events happening Thursday. The group also organized the meagerly attended “Justice for J6” rally in Washington last September. Its director, Matt Braynard, had been involved in efforts to overturn the election and rewrite the history of Jan. 6.

In addition to a vigil Thursday at the D.C. jail where accused Jan. 6 participants are being held, the group is promoting vigils outside courthouses and parks in Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina. To avoid the appearance of supporting a political party or candidate, attendees are simply instructed to wear “patriotic” gear and carry American flags. Trump apparel was explicitly banned at the September rally.

In a Dec. 20 tweet, Look Ahead America wrote the vigils are “to honor those who have been politically persecuted and to commemorate Ashli Babbitt and Rosanne Boyland,” two Trump supporters who died in the riot. Babbitt was killed by officers as she tried to breach the Capitol, and Boyland died in a stampede of rioters. Both have become martyrs for those sympathetic to the insurrectionists.

Look Ahead America didn’t respond to HuffPost’s request for an interview. Neither did the Cobb County GOP.

Cobb County Republican Party chair Salleigh Grubbs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she doesn’t view the event the way it has been portrayed in the media. The goal is to commemorate people who lost their lives in the attack and others who are awaiting trial, she told the outlet.

“To those who have cast quick judgment concerning this event, under no uncertain terms are we condoning any form of violence nor the glorification of what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. This miscarriage of justice should concern ALL AMERICANS,” she told them.

North Carolina’s Polk County Republican Party is advertising Look Ahead America’s vigil, along with its own gathering beforehand to “pay tribute to the protestors who traveled to DC and shed more light on the corrupt and subversive actions of our government on that day,” and a viewing of a Jan. 6 documentary, “Capitol Punishment.”

In California, Nick Taurus, a far-right congressional candidate who’s trying to unseat progressive Democrat Katie Porter — and caused a disturbance at a town hall she held over the summer — is hosting his own event to honor “patriots” outside the Orange County FBI office. Besides a 25-year immigration moratorium, Taurus’ candidate platform calls for releasing from prison and pardoning anyone charged in the Jan. 6 attack.

Taurus, a 30-year-old junk hauler, told HuffPost that people who attended the Jan. 6 rally and even those imprisoned are “just everyday American people acting in a way that any patriot would.”

“I don’t think these people are bad people,” he said, adding, “I think many had their lives totally ruined.”

Jason Shepherd, the former chairman of the Cobb County GOP, told HuffPost he was “flabbergasted” to receive an invite to the vigil.

“A candlelight vigil for accused criminals who are sitting in DC jail awaiting trial, who are denied bond because they’re accused of the most heinous crimes as part of the attacks,” said Shepherd, who cut ties with the party after it voted to censure Gov. Brian Kemp. “We actually had people who died last year in the wake of all this. That’s who we should be honoring at the candlelight vigil.”

Shepherd noted the Cobb County GOP used to be the hometown party of the late Sen. Johnny Isakson, considered a moderate Republican open to reaching across the aisle. Isakson died last month, but his funeral falls on the Jan. 6 anniversary.

“On the same day we’re saying goodbye to this great leader who really helped establish the modern Republican Party, not just in Cobb County, but the entire state,” he said.

Catherine Ross, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University and the author of “A Right to Lie? Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment” said the events being organized by the extreme right to commemorate the Jan. 6 attack prove the country is at “absolutely a crisis point” a year later.

“The fact that there are people in the Congress and Republican leadership outside Congress who are backing up Trump’s lies and say the election is stolen, the insurrection was Election Day, and Jan. 6 was a peaceful vigil — well, more and more evidence is coming out almost every day about how much more danger the country was in than we even imagined on Jan. 6,” she said.



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