On Jan. 6, people across the country will gather to remember the Capitol riot. These events will feature somber reflections of the largest attack on American democracy in more than 200 years.
Far-right figures are also planning commemorative events. They’re holding vigils to support rioters who are facing charges or are currently incarcerated. The group behind most of the events, Look Ahead America, is run by a man who worked for former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
On Dec. 20, Look Ahead America tweeted about its plans to host vigils on the anniversary of the failed insurrection “to honor those who have been politically persecuted and to commemorate Ashli Babbitt and Rosanne Boyland.”
Babbitt and Boyland were QAnon followers killed in the attempt to overturn the election in favor of Trump. Babbitt was shot by police and Boyland was trampled by the mob at the Stop the Steal protest that became the riot.
Initially, there was only one candlelight vigil planned in Washington, D.C., outside the jail where many alleged rioters are behind held, the Washington Post reported on Dec. 20. In the 10 days since, Look Ahead America has announced 10 additional vigils in five states: North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina. An unaffiliated vigil is also planned in California. Most are being held at courthouses, capitol buildings, parks, and jails.
Look Ahead America is portraying its vigils as a crusade for justice for the alleged rioters whom it believes are wrongfully being charged and incarcerated.
In recent months, people who support the insurrection have attempted to recast it as a peaceful protest or justified based on the false assertion that the election was stolen from Trump. In an effort to change the narrative, they characterize the accused as political prisoners and patriots, rather than accused criminals.
At least one of Look Ahead America’s events, the one scheduled in St. Augustine, Florida, is describing the alleged rioters as “POWs” (prisoners of war). A poster for the event uses a slightly altered version of the National League of Families POW/MIA flag. “MIA” stands for missing in action. The flag was initially created to commemorate soldiers captured or missing in the Vietnam War.
Look Ahead America didn’t respond to the Daily Dot’s emailed list of questions sent Thursday afternoon.
Braynard, who runs Look Ahead America, was fired by the Trump campaign after six months, according to BuzzFeed News. The outlet reports that a top staffer said Braynard had asked for a raise and he “wasn’t really qualified” for the job anyway.
After the 2020 election, Braynard inserted himself into efforts to overturn it. He was paid $40,000 as an “expert witness” in what were ultimately unsuccessful efforts to challenge results in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, the Post reports. He also reportedly raised $675,000 on GiveSendGo to work to challenge the outcomes in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Both the Post and BuzzFeed noted that Braynard’s contributions to the effort to overturn the election were riddled with errors, such as when he erroneously assumed while testifying in Georgia that an apartment building with a FedEx store in the lobby couldn’t possibly have residents.
Braynard told the Post he believes that the alleged Jan. 6 rioters are being “vilified because of their political viewpoints” and said that those who assaulted police or damaged property should be punished but falsely said that only a few did so.
This isn’t Look Ahead America’s first event supporting the alleged rioters. In September it planned a rally in Washington, D.C. called the “Justice for J6 Rally.” The event attracted a meager showing of 100-200 people. By planning events nationwide, it’s seemingly attempting to increase its visibility.
It’s also endeavoring to tap into locals who support the people accused of beating police, ransacking the Capitol, and attempting to subvert democracy. Look Ahead America offers them explicit instructions for their own “Justice for J6 Candlelight Vigil.”
The guidelines include what time vigils should be held (sunset), a supply list, talking points, and more. “Determine ahead of time when and how you will light your candles,” the guidelines state. “Will you do this as guests arrive, at a specific time in the ceremony, will it be done by passing the flame or will you have others helping?”
Look Ahead America is also trying to control the image portrayed by these vigils. In an apparent effort to distance the events from Trump and the Republican Party, it urges attendees not to wear clothing or carry signage referencing politicians, parties, or organizations. Instead, they are to wear and bring “patriotic” items and “signs supporting the civil rights of our J6 defendants.”
An additional, unaffiliated vigil is planned in Orange, California. It’s being organized by Nick Taurus, a far-right candidate for Congress in the state. Taurus describes himself on his website as an “American nationalist” and is campaigning on a 25-year immigration ban and prohibiting vaccine mandates and critical race theory nationwide. His platform also calls to “release and pardon all 1/6 Patriots.”
In a brief phone call, Taurus confirmed that he’s organizing the event.
Taurus told the Daily Dot that he participated in one of Look Ahead America’s previous events and called it a “good organization,” but said his vigil isn’t affiliated with the group’s.
Taurus declined to answer any additional questions, saying he wanted to research the Daily Dot before speaking further. “I don’t really trust a lot of journalists or media,” he said.
Both the vigils planned by Taurus and Look Ahead America will compete with similar events that take an opposite view of the Capitol riot. Liberal groups are planning events pushing against false narratives about the insurrection attempt and supporting federal voting rights protections.