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First Three Percenters charged in US Capitol riot conspiracy

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Supporters of former President Donald Trump hold a 'We the People' banner, a Three Percenters flag and a 13-star Betsy Ross US flag in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters] © Supporters of former President Donald Trump hold a 'We the People' banner, a Three Percenters flag a... Supporters of former President Donald Trump hold a 'We the People' banner, a Three Percenters flag and a 13-star Betsy Ross US flag in front of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

Prosecutors have charged six members of the Three Percenters militia group with conspiring to attack the US Capitol on January 6, an indictment unsealed on Thursday in federal court in Washington showed.

Six men, all from California, were charged in the indictment: Alan Hostetter, Russell Taylor, Eric Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele.

These are the first charges brought against members of the Three Percenters, whose name comes from the idea that only three percent of colonists rebelled against British rule in the 1700s, leading to US independence. The idea holds little historical weight.

Federal prosecutors previously brought similar conspiracy cases against members of two other right-wing groups, The Oath Keepers, a militia that makes it a priority to recruit current and former police officers and military, and The Proud Boys, a group that views itself as “Western chauvinist” but has been deemed a hate group.

Those pending cases are the largest and most complex of the roughly 500 brought by the Justice Department in the months since the deadly attack carried out by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, interrupted the formal congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory, clashed with an overwhelmed police force, and invaded the House of Representatives and Senate chambers.

Five people died after the riot, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.

According to the indictment, Hostetter founded a group in 2020 called the American Phoenix Project that protested restrictions on public gatherings imposed as a public health measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. That group became a platform to advocate violence against government leaders, according to the indictment.

He is also a former police chief of La Habra, California, a city of about 60,000 near Los Angeles, according to local media.

Hostetter allegedly said at a December rally, “There must be justice. President Trump must be inaugurated on January 20th. And he must be allowed to finish this historic job of cleaning out the corruption in the cesspool known as Washington”.

The indictment also alleges Taylor carried a knife into the Capitol complex and when the crowd met Capitol Police, he urged them to “Move forward, Americans”.

He then told police, “Last chance, boys,” according the court documents.

Hostetter and Taylor had appeared with Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of Trump, outside the US Supreme Court at a protest against the outcome of the 2020 presidential election the day before the Capitol riot.

Stone was pictured with members of militia groups serving as his personal security in the days before the January 6 riot.

Trump granted a pardon to Stone in December, wiping away his conviction arising from a federal investigation that documented Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

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