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Capitol Insurrection: Who Joined The Mob And Why? Here's A Look

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A mob gathers at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 06, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation's capital during a joint session Congress to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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Nearly every day since insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, the list of those charged in the attack has grown longer. The government has now identified more than 240 suspects in the Jan. 6 rioting, which ended with five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

As Congress considers a presidential impeachment in response to the attack, those criminal cases provide clues to key questions surrounding the Capitol breach: Who exactly joined the mob? What did they do? And why?

To try to answer those questions, NPR is examining the criminal cases related to the Capitol riot, drawing on court documents, public records, news accounts and social media.

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A group this large defies generalization. The defendants are predominantly white and male, though there were exceptions. Federal prosecutors say a former member of the Latin Kings gang joined the mob, as did two Virginia police officers. A man in a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt took part, as did a Messianic Rabbi. Far-right militia members decked out in tactical gear rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Still, NPR's examination did identify certain commonalities.

There were those with connections to extremist groups or fringe ideas. At least 14 defendants appear to have expressed support for QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

At least 16 of the defendants appear to have links to the Proud Boys, a far-right gang. The group was recently declared a terrorist group in Canada. Their values have been widely described as racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant and hateful against other minority groups.

At least four of the defendants have alleged ties to the Oath Keepers, which the Anti-Defamation League calls an "anti-government right-wing fringe organization."

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The group is known to target and recruit current and former law enforcement officers and military veterans. At least three of the defendants are allegedly affiliated with the Three Percenters, another anti-government extremist organization.

The presence of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as military service members and veterans, has especially alarmed government officials. NPR found at least 14% of those charged had possible ties to the military or to law enforcement.

Experts say there's little evidence that current or former members of the military are more susceptible to radicalization, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called combating extremism in the ranks a top priority.

Lawmakers who support impeaching former President Donald Trump argue that he "incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol." There is some evidence of that in court documents: Some who allegedly stormed the Capitol explicitly said they were inspired by Trump.

"IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***IN CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN!" one defendant wrote. "I thought I was following my President," said yet another.

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Most of the people charged in connection with the storming of the Capitol face allegations primarily related to breaching the building. But a smaller number face more serious charges and a greater threat of prison time if convicted.

Twelve are accused of committing conspiracy, one of the most serious charges brought. Thirty-four are accused of committing acts of violence, particularly against Capitol Police. At least 18 are suspected of causing property damage, like breaking windows or doors to gain entry to the building. At least 16 are accused of theft, like the man photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern or one woman who allegedly took a laptop from Pelosi's office.