Brandon Straka, a self-described “former liberal” who founded the #WalkAway campaign to encourage people to leave the Democratic Party, admitted to recording himself telling the mob to “go go go” as they reached the Capitol and telling rioters who were wrestling a shield away from a US Capitol Police officer to “take it, take it.”
He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on Capitol in October. Straka will have to pay a $5,000 fine, the maximum fine allowed, and an additional $500 for the damage done to the Capitol building by the mob.
“The thing that’s hard to understand is that he started this movement, the Walk Away movement… with the mission to bring together all walks of life to have civil discourse and to listen to one another and to not be violent,” said District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington. “And his actions that day are so inconsistent with that.”
Friedrich, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, added that it was “deeply troubling” that Straka used his social media accounts to defend what happened on January 6.
“He still persists in this idea that it is okay to storm the Capitol to contest an election, and that’s not what we do in this country. People who do that are not patriots,” she added.
Straka apologized to lawmakers and the police during the hour-long hearing, saying that he was “deeply sorry and ashamed for being present at an event that sent members of Congress running in fear to evacuate a building,” and that “no police officer should ever have to feel their life or safety are in jeopardy because they’re working at a protest.”
In late December 2020, prosecutors say that Straka had posted on social media: “We can not allow a transition to Biden under these circumstances” adding later “Make peace right now w the fact that we are in a civil war.”
Straka has said he was promoting a march to the Capitol on January 6.
In court filings last week, Straka’s attorneys said he spoke to government investigators three times voluntarily, and claimed that officials seemed to be trying to establish there was an “organized conspiracy” involving former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election results.
The Justice Department acknowledged in court filings that Straka was “cooperative” in these interviews, which stretched into this month.
It’s still unclear how much value his cooperation could have in the wider Justice Department investigation, if at all. Straka “denied the existence of any such plot,” according to his lawyer, and said the riot was “a demonstration that unfortunately spiraled out of control.”
Straka is also one of several people charged in the Capitol riot investigation who has also been the subject of a records request from the House select committee investigating January 6.