By their family’s descriptions, the men are devoted fathers, God-fearing Christians of faith and hardworking breadwinners no longer able to provide for their wives and children.
Those narratives are likely accurate.
But so too, are the rest of the details of their stories. The ones strategically left off the Patriot Freedom Project website. The “why” these men’s families are in such dire straits — with them incarcerated, awaiting hearings for their roles in the U.S. Capitol riot of Jan. 6.
The site seeks to aid in easing the financial burdens and legal fees of more than 70 of the Jan. 6 defendants, or as the site refers to them, “political prisoners” suffering from “wrongful detention.”
Links are provided to their individual crowdsourcing accounts, which show them in more peaceful times: fishing, posing with children, at their weddings, hiking and busy at work.
Noticeably absent are the links to the affidavits, the videos, the photos and other testimony gathered by the U.S. Department of Justice that serves as evidence against these men, although they are readily available on a searchable DOJ site: justice.gov/usao-dc/capitol-breach-cases.
The trials of these individuals are the legal ramifications to the attack Americans saw broadcast a year ago when Donald J. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol during the Stop the Steal rally, intent on backing Trump’s delusional belief that he won the 2020 presidential election.
Five people, including one of the insurrectionists, died that day. And four police officers later took their own lives.
At the one-year anniversary, the nation will focus on the ongoing dramas of the House Select committee investigation. But equally, if not more insightful to what led to the attacks are sites such as the Patriot Freedom Project, especially in understanding the motivations of those who are donating.
The amounts aren’t anything to sniff at: $215,000, $55,000, $53,000, $27,000. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to why some of the defendants are able to garner more donations. More engaging family photos, perhaps? The defendants with the more attractive, or simply more, children? Some, as veterans, are shown in military uniform.
A “sins of the fathers” empathy is probably at play. No one should want to see blameless children harmed or ostracized because of the errant passions of their parents.
The Patriot site focuses on a smaller number of people, but nearly 700 have been charged in connection to the riot, mostly with misdemeanors and the punishments have varied: house arrests, fines and some prison time.
Of that larger number, more than 220 have been charged with violence against or impeding the Capitol and D.C. metropolitan police.
Extrapolated, that’s thousands of people affected, when their wider network of sympathizers, family members and other associates are considered.
Those charged appear to be a mishmash of true believers in the fantasy that the election was stolen from Trump, avowed white supremacists, those misled by a heavy consumption of right-wing cable news and people in the wrong place for who knows what reasons of timing and their acquaintances.
People on the edges of fringe groups tend to peel away after any well-publicized and highly scrutinized act of violence or controversy. They reassess, oftentimes appropriately questioning/kicking themselves for being gullible, absorbed by the drama.
Clues indicate that this is occurring, with splits in families and lost employment mentioned in fundraising accounts.
But many of the defendants apparently deeply believe that they are saving America in a valiant way. But ask them from what and their grasp on reality, facts, and history can falter. No doubt their fears and perceptions seem valid to them.
The American Revolution keeps coming to mind.
And Benedict Arnold, a historical figure most of us learned a smattering about in elementary school. He was a traitor to the goals of the Revolutionary War, a side-switcher who defected to the British. But his motivations, including greed, and the politics of his time, were more complicated than most learn.
Some of the Jan. 6 defendants, especially those enthralled by militia groups, see themselves as modern revolutionary figures.
Here’s an apt passage within a fascinating article about Arnold, printed in a 2016 Smithsonian Magazine, written by the award-winning Nathaniel Philbrick, author of “George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution”:
“The American Revolution as it actually unfolded was so troubling and strange that once the struggle was over, a generation did its best to remove all traces of the truth. Although it later became convenient to portray Arnold as a conniving Satan from the start, the truth is more complex and, ultimately, more disturbing. Without the discovery of his treason in the fall of 1780, the American people might never have been forced to realize that the real threat to their liberties came not from without, but from within.”
Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.