Brandon Fellows had by no means attended a Trump rally earlier than final week. He mentioned he was motivated to drive to Washington after seeing a tweet from the president. “Massive protest in D.C. on January sixth,” President Donald Trump wrote on Dec. 19. “Be there, can be wild!”
Fellows did not find out about a deliberate march that may finally overtake the U.S. Capitol. He mentioned he had merely come to see Trump give a speech.
However inside hours of watching Trump’s speech, Fellows had his ft propped up on a desk within the workplace of a U.S. Senator, smoking a joint. He roamed the halls of the Capitol, heckled law enforcement officials and posted movies alongside the way in which on Snapchat.
“I’ve no regrets,” mentioned Fellows, a 26-year-old former grocery retailer employee from upstate New York who now makes cash chopping timber and repairing chimneys. “I did not harm anybody, I did not break something. I did trespass although, I suppose.”
Certainly, within the days because the upheaval, Fellows mentioned his profile on the relationship app Bumble is “blowing up” after he posted photos of himself on the Capitol.
Fellows was amongst a whole bunch of Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6, forcing Vice President Michael Pence, members of Congress and their staffs into hiding. 5 individuals died within the melee, together with a rioter who was shot by police and a Capitol Police officer from unspecified accidents suffered throughout an altercation with the intruders.
Fellows’s story supplies an in depth account of how one Trump supporter ended up taking part within the Capitol riot, an occasion that has spawned mass condemnation and prompted Home Democrats to pursue impeachment for a second time in lower than two years.
His story additionally gives a real-world instance of a Trump supporter who absorbed false info on social media and heeded the president’s name to take motion. It is an illustration of why so many expertise corporations have taken steps because the Capitol riot to crack down on conspiracies which have proliferated on its platforms, together with Twitter’s ban on Trump’s account.
Fellows, who lives in a transformed college bus, mentioned he stopped working final spring due to fears of Covid-19. However he mentioned he turned disillusioned when New York state denied him unemployment advantages. “For some time, in early March and April, I used to be tremendous poor,” he mentioned.
Fellows mentioned he will get a lot of his information from conservative commentators on YouTube, together with Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder. He mentioned he has additionally began watching Newsmax and One America Information, which have each promoted false claims of a rigged election.
He mentioned his political beliefs have created friction along with his household, a lot in order that on Christmas Day solely his grandparents invited him to dinner. They requested him to eat on his bus as a result of he did not take Covid-19 severely sufficient, he mentioned.
On the Capitol, he mentioned, although lots of the rioters had been individuals he would not usually get together with, it “felt like household.”
“We had been there for one frequent trigger, which is making a press release that the federal government is crushing down on us,” he mentioned.
His stepfather of 14 years, Timothy Monroe, mentioned he wasn’t shocked when he realized that Fellows was contained in the Capitol. “He is aware of what he believes,” Monroe mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t actually change it with any type of actuality.”
Fellows mentioned he got here to D.C. partially as a result of he believes that the election was rigged. However his major motivation was his anger at authorities measures to forestall Covid-19, resembling lockdowns of eating places and gymnasiums.
On Jan. 6, Fellows mentioned he arrived exterior of the Ellipse, a park adjoining to the White Home, simply after 1 a.m. He was one of many first individuals in line to get into Trump’s rally and sat simply 5 rows away from the place the president spoke, video reveals. Fellows got here ready for the chilly climate, sporting snow pants, a leather-based jacket with an American flag emblazoned on the again and a knit hat that resembles a knight’s helmet and beard.
“That is the final stand,” Fellows mentioned, in an interview with a Bloomberg Information reporter previous to Trump’s speech. “I really feel like I’ve seen loads of the election fraud proof, and I do not perceive why nothing is being carried out.” Trump’s claims of election fraud within the Nov. 3 election have been rejected by state and federal courts, in addition to some members of his personal occasion.
Following the conclusion of Trump’s speech, Fellows joined in on the march on Pennsylvania Avenue, headed towards the Capitol. “I used to be like ‘Oh cool, there’s gonna be a march,'” he mentioned. “I’ve by no means been in a march.”
By the point he arrived, he mentioned the obstacles defending the perimeter had already been overrun. As he was scaling a wall to succeed in the Senate facet of the Capitol, he mentioned he was pondering, “I am not lacking this, that is historical past.” Fellows helped others climb over the wall, movies present.
Fellows mentioned he watched a fellow Trump supporter bashing in a door on the Capitol with a cane and finally break via the door. A crowd of rioters pushed via solely to be pushed again exterior by law enforcement officials. As soon as the constructing was overrun, he mentioned he initially hesitated earlier than getting into however did so after listening to that individuals inside weren’t being arrested. He acquired in via a damaged window.
Within the half-hour or so he was within the Capitol, he filmed dozens of movies and posted them on Snapchat.
In certainly one of them, which was reviewed by Bloomberg Information, he heckled Capitol Law enforcement officials who weren’t sporting helmets.
“The place’s your helmet, bro?” Fellows requested an officer. “I wasn’t issued one, as a result of they ran out,” the officer replied.
“They do not care about you? Are you guys rookies, is that why?” Fellows shot again. “I have been right here eight years,” the officer mentioned. “Fairly cool what occurred right here at the moment,” Fellows replied.
One other video reveals his muddy boots propped on a desk in Senator Jeff Merkley’s workplace, the place Fellows mentioned he took two puffs from a joint somebody handed to him. “This one goes to get me incriminated,” Fellows mentioned of the video in Merkley’s workplace.
In a video posted to Twitter, Merkley surveyed the harm in his workplace by which a door was smashed “off its hinges” and paintings was torn from the wall. “It was unlocked, they may have merely opened the door,” Merkley mentioned. “So rely this workplace trashed.”
After leaving Merkley’s workplace, Fellows mentioned he wandered the Capitol and requested a police officer for instructions to the Nationwide Statuary Corridor. The police officer defined that the statues characterize every state and offered instructions on easy methods to get there, in line with Fellows’s video of the encounter. “Dude, you are tremendous cool,” Fellows mentioned.
Fellows’s interactions with law enforcement officials contained in the Capitol led him to consider there would not be penalties for going inside. “Did I believe I used to be going to get in hassle?” Fellows mentioned. “Uh, no.”
After leaving the Capitol, Fellows posed for photos subsequent to a line of law enforcement officials in riot gear and on an deserted police motorbike.
He mentioned he’s planning to return to Washington for extra protests surrounding President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and he predicted there can be extra violence. The FBI issued a warning that there are plans for armed protests in D.C. and in any respect 50 state capitals within the days main as much as the inauguration.
“Clearly Trump began a motion in a manner, however I believe we began one thing even greater by doing this,” Fellows mentioned. However now the regulation enforcement is rounding up others who participated within the Capitol intrusion, he believes he too could also be arrested.
“Do you assume I’ll go to federal jail?” Fellows requested. “I used to be advised federal jail shouldn’t be enjoyable.”
(Apart from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)