A local Virginia news outlet is publishing previously unseen photos taken by staff in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. The images reportedly show a group of men “loitering near the Marine Corps War Memorial,” with a view of the Capitol building. According to the report, the men stood around a small parking area, their SUVs and out-of-state plates conspicuous enough that Arlington County police were notified by passersby of their presence. According to ARLnow.com, which published the images, one of the pickup trucks in the parking area where the men loitered was left running with a “large toolbox in the back.”
According to the Arlington County police, an officer was sent to look into the reports of “9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the Iwo Jima War Memorial property” at 4 PM that day. According to a spokesperson for the police department, “nothing was located and the call was cleared.” ARLnow points to far-right militia groups and prosecutors’ filings against various Oath Keeper suspects who have been arrested and charged in the Capitol insurgency. Specifically highlighted is a memo against Oath Keeper leader Edward Caldwell that details an elaborate “quick reaction force” (QRF) of militia men who were to stay outside awaiting orders and could bring “the tools if something goes to hell” inside the Capitol, “that way the boys don’t have to try to schelp [sic] weps on the bus.” According to the prosecutors’ filings, these individuals were potentially waiting outside, ready with weapons to bring into the Capitol.
On Friday, Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner, who is covering legal cases in Alexandria, reported on Oath Keeper leader Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio, and other militia member cases:
Judge is now asking whether there really was a “quick reaction force” stationed outside D.C. with weapons for militia members’ use on Jan. 6. Prosecutor: “That is our understanding.” And after that tantalizing detail, they are moving off the record.
This comes after Proud Boy members trying out the legal defense of, “Whoops, we didn’t know we were breaking the law,” or, “Whoops, we thought Donald Trump was telling us the truth,” or, “Whoops, we didn’t think we could get arrested for breaking the law.” Watkins in particular tried to renounce her involvement in the Oath Keepers and say she was finished playing seditionist, so could she go home and pretend none of this happened? U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta was not having any of that. Maybe this selection from the prosecutors’ court filings is why?
The next day, Watkins exchanged text messages with Co-defendant Thomas Caldwell about the operational plans for January 6, 2021. This included coordinating about where and when to meet and where to stay. Operational plans also contemplated the possession and use of weapons in D.C. before and on January 6. Caldwell referenced “a quick reaction force [QRF] [that would be]bringing the tools if something goes to hell. That way the boys don’t have to try to schelp weps on the bus.” Watkins previously stated that the QRF provided ready access to guns during operations. As she explained to a contact when preparing to attend a November election fraud rally in Washington D.C., QRF was designed so that “If it gets bad, they QRF to us with weapons for us,” but that, otherwise, “[w]e can have mace, tasers, or night sticks. QRF staged, armed, with our weapons, outside the city” and advised “to be prepared to fight hand to hand” while “guys outside DC with guns, await orders to enter DC under permission from Trump, not a minute sooner.” Watkins’s own operational role extended well beyond providing medical aid. As she explained to a recruit, “I’m no doctor. I’m a soldier. A medic with a rifle, maybe, but a solider. I will hurt/kill those who try to hurt/kill me or others.”
Yikes. Like most of the Oath Keepers and other militia members being arrested and charged right now, the defense being employed amounts to, ”Hey, we’re full of shit, and we thought this would work but it didn’t so how about we pretend we didn’t do it.” Hopefully the photos that ARLnow reporter Jay Westcott took are helpful in bringing more justice against fascists.