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Proud Boys rallied to ‘take the f****** Capitol’ before Trump’s January 6 speech, prosecutors say

Members of the far-right nationalist gang the Proud Boys rallied a crowd to “take the f****** Capitol” as a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election on January 6, 2021.

In opening arguments in a trial for five members of the group charged with seditious conspiracy for their actions leading up to and during the attack, federal prosecutors showed video taken roughly 20 minutes before then-President Donald Trump addressed his supporters at a nearby rally.

Assistant US Attorney Jason McCullough said the group did not intend to listen to the president’s speech; they had always planned to lead a crowd to the Capitol to forcibly stop the transfer of presidential power.

“They hoped the ‘normies’ – that is, the civilians – would burn the city to ash,” he told jurors on 12 January.

Jurors were shown video of defendant Ethan Nordean from 11.41am on January 6, 2021, according to prosecutors. Someone can be heard saying “Ethan, let’s f****** do it”. Moments later, at 11.47am, that person tells the crowd “take the f****** Capitol”.

Mr Trump began his speech to a rally crowd at 11.57am.

At 1.49pm, several Proud Boys – including defendants Dominic Pezzola and Joseph Biggs – began moving towards the base of the stairs at the Capitol near the front of a growing crowd, then pushed a second time up the stairs to get the crowd moving.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Pezzola used a police officer’s riot shield to bust out a window, opening the first point of access to the building, and prompting evacuations of lawmakers inside.

“I knew we could take this motherf***** over [if we ] just tried,” he said in a “victory speech” while smoking outside the Capitol around 2.34pm.

“Proud of your motherf****** boy,” he said.

Mr McCullough’s opening statements in one of the highest profile cases involving Capitol rioters glimpsed the reams of text messages and statements from members of the group to be used as evidence of their alleged plans to violently reject the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

“We’ve see their coordinated actions, we’ll see the celebration of the group’s activities, and their attempt to cover their tracks,” Mr McCullough said. “Once you’ve heard all the evidence, my colleague will stand before you and ask you to return the one verdict that is consistent with this evidence.”

Federal prosecutors hope to secure another conviction of seditious conspiracy weeks after a jury returned a guilty verdict against two members of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, including founder and leader Stewart Rhodes.

The men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Former Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio is among five members of the far-right group charged with seditious conspiracy connected to the January 6 attack. (AP)
Former Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio is among five members of the far-right group charged with seditious conspiracy connected to the January 6 attack. (AP)

Prosecutors also played audio of now-former Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio saying: “I didn’t hear this until now. You want to storm the Capitol.”

“In some situations in life you have to guess if people mean what they say,” Mr McCullough said. “At other times, people do exactly what they say they’re going to do. In this trial, you won’t have to guess.”

Mr McCullough said members of the Proud Boys “took aim at the heart of our democracy” on January 6, as members breached the halls of Congress after months of discussing an alleged attack.

“They did not stand back. They did not stand by,” he said, referencing Mr Trump’s remarks to the group during a presidential debate in September of 2020. “They mobilised and before they realised how much trouble they were in, they celebrated their group’s accomplishments.”

Mr McCullough noted that within minutes of attack, Tarrio texted his allies to take credit.

“Make no mistake,” he wrote. “We did this.”