Brandon Straka, a gay former hairdresser and aspiring actor in New York City who in 2018 launched a ‘Walk Away from the Democrats’ social media campaign that went viral, was arrested in Nebraska on Jan. 25 on civil disorder related charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Information released by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia says Straka, 44, was apprehended in Nebraska following an FBI investigation that linked him through video images and some of his own social media postings to the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors have called the action by the rioters an attempted insurrection aimed at stopping Congress from confirming the election of President Joe Biden.
A Criminal Complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charges Straka with “impeding law enforcement officers during a civil disorder; knowingly entering and remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority; and/or engaging in disorderly conduct within proximity to a restricted building to impede official functions.”
Straka could not immediately be reached for comment. A case docket filed in U.S. District Court for D.C. as of Jan. 26 did not show whether Straka had retained a lawyer.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., which is prosecuting the case against Straka and more than 100 others arrested in connection with the Capitol riot, could not be immediately reached to determine whether Straka was being held in Nebraska pending his possible extradition to D.C.
An NBC News profile on Straka broadcast in August 2018 says he is originally from rural Nebraska, where he said he “faced violence and discrimination for being gay in his conservative hometown.” The NBC profile says he moved to New York City shortly after finishing high school in Nebraska.
A seven-page arrest affidavit called a “Statement of Fact” filed in court by FBI Agent Jeremy Desor in support of the charges against Straka states that Desor obtained and viewed numerous Tweets by Straka as well as video of Straka outside one of the entrances at the U.S. Capitol at the time the riot was taking place.
Although Desor does not state that he saw or learned that Straka had entered the Capitol building, he states in his affidavit that Straka could be seen pushing his way through a crowd of people to get closer to the entrance as at least one police officer attempted to block the crowd from entering the building.
In a video sent to the FBI by a witness, Straka can be heard stating, “We’re going in. They’re saying we’re going in. We’re going in. We’re going in. The people are going in,” Desor states in his affidavit.
“Straka reached the top of the stairs where he was behind a large crowd of people attempting to enter the U.S. Capitol through a single entrance,” the affidavit says. “As the crowd in front of him tried to push their way into the entrance of the U.S. Capitol, Straka yelled, “Go! Go!” the affidavit says. “Straka could then be heard saying to somebody, ‘I want to try,’” according to the affidavit prepared by FBI Agent Desor.
“The video ended with Straka still in the area at the top of the steps near the entrance to the U.S. Capitol but not having entered the building,” Desor’s affidavit states.
Desor’s affidavit also points out that the video images of Straka at the Capitol on the day of the riot show he was wearing the same coat and hat that he wore when he spoke from a podium at a rally of supporters of President Trump one day earlier at D.C.’s Freedom Plaza. A video recording of his brief remarks at the Freedom Plaza rally shows him calling the attendees “patriots” and referring to their involvement in a “revolution.”
“Straka told the attendees to ‘fight back’ and ended by saying, ‘We are sending a message to the Democrats, we are not going away, you’ve got a problem!” Desor’s affidavit quotes him as saying.
“Based on the foregoing, your affiant submits that there is probable cause to believe that Straka violated 18 U.S.C., sec. 231(a)(3) and 18 U.S.C. sec. 2(a), which make it unlawful to obstruct, impede, and/or aid and abet another person to obstruct, impede, or interfere, with any fireman or law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties incident to and during the commission of a civil disorder…,” the affidavit states.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.