Who Were the January 6 Insurrectionists?

On a Twitter thread with Sarah Werner, I mentioned four distinct groups of people that seemed to take part in the violent January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

I wanted to expand a bit more on those four groups.

Tourists. These are the people who were taking selfies and wandering through the Capitol as if on a field trip, as many people have described them. The tourists seemed to be people who attended the pro-Trump rally, then made their way to the Capitol without any specific purpose. Focusing on this group would be a mistake, as it obscures the violence that took place.


Theologians. This group seems to have been comprised of two sets of people–Qanon believers and religious conservatives–who see spiritual significance and find spiritual fulfillment in supporting Donald Trump and who believe that ensuring him a second term is a part of a divine plan. Qanon followers believe that Trump is the savior who is going to expose and execute those Democrats and liberals involved in a global cannabalistic sex-slave ring. Religious conservatives are primarily, but not exclusively, evangelical Christians who believe that Trump is “God’s chosen one,” a King Cyrus sent to help bring God to a depraved world. “Jesus Is My Savior. Trump Is My President” is not an uncommon slogan they adopt. (There appears to be significant overlap between these two groups.)

Thugs. This group includes those, such as the Proud Boys, who are angry about the direction of the nation and its perceived effect on them, whether it be the alleged threat of socialism or the growth in numbers and influence of non-white populations. These were the people who seemed intent on vandalizing and breaking things.

Terrorists. This group includes the people who planted bombs, built gallows, shouted “Hang Mike Pence,” made off with computers, and compromised the Capitol’s cybersecurity. They also appeared to have more sinister plans and are preparing for more violence in the next two weeks.

Police officers stand guard as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis

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