Allen Groat was present two “Million MAGA” marches in Washington, D.C., after the November 2020 election, when thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump descended on the nation’s capital to spread the “big lie” about voter fraud widespread. During the second march, Groat, 36, wore a black baseball cap with an American flag on it and took selfies with a who’s-who of far-right figures who, weeks later, would be key players in the January 6, 2021 riot at the United States Capitol.
There was a selfie with Ali Alexander, the main organizer of the January 6 “Stop the Steal” demonstration which turned into an attack on the Capitol; one with Doug Mastriano, who was at the center of efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and is now the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania; another with Enrique Tarrio, leader of the violent neo-fascist Proud Boys gang; and one with Alex Jones, the famous Infowars conspirator. (Groat later claimed to have worked as “improvised” security for Jones at a rally.)
Groat was a true supporter of the cause, writing in since-deleted tweets that those who “love America” must “defend the republic by any means necessary.” Soon, he wrote, “blood will be shed to prevent the theft of our republic.” He shared his hated “Make America Great Again” brothers for anti-racism activists, tweeting an image of a Black Lives Matter mural with the caption “Fuck BLM!!! Time to uninstall!!!” And then, in early January, he announced plans to attend a Jan. 6 protest that Trump had promised to be “wild!” Groat wrote that he was “so excited to join all #Patriots…in forcing Congress to do the right thing and #NotCertify the fraudulent election.” He took time off from work on Jan. 6 ― apparently narrative his employer that he needed to take his wife to the doctor – and went to Washington.
Videos and photos from January 6 show Groat walking towards the Capitol as part of Jones-Alexander’s entourage before stopping and walking up the northwest stairs of the Capitol, incoming the building at 2:37 p.m. Body worn police camera footage shows officers asking him and other rioters to leave.
“We love you guys…it’s their fault, not ours,” Groat can be heard telling the officers, gesturing toward Congress. He walked through the rotunda and eventually exited through the east-central doors.
Then, after the dust had settled since that historic day — five dead, $30 million in damage, a democracy even more in jeopardy — Groat returned home near Charlottesville, Virginia, and returned to work as a computer analyst for the city police department, sheriff’s office, fire department and rescue team.
In the weeks that followed, many of Groat’s fellow insurgents were exposed by a small army of online researchersresulting in a daily melodrama, played in headlines across the country – arrests, lost jobs, upended relationships – which, in many ways mirrored what had happened in Charlottesville years earlier after another deadly fascist riot: Unite the Right.
But Groat’s activities on January 6 went unreported for a year and a half, until last June when local anti-fascist activist Molly Conger discovered Groat’s social media posts – which he confirmed to C-VILLE Weekly were his – and found footage of him in the United States Capitol.
As Charlottesville marks the fifth anniversary this week of the deadly Unite the Right rally — the 2017 protest in which about 1,000 white supremacists emboldened by Trump swarmed the city for the largest such rally in a generation — residents pressure city officials to fire Groat.
Charlottesville should know better than most places, they say, how important it is to make sure extremists face the consequences of their actions.
“In many ways you can draw a straight line between the 2017 Unite the Right rally here in Charlottesville and January 6, 2021 in DC,” Conger tweeted earlier this week. “I guess it’s only fitting that as we approach the fifth anniversary, city leaders continue to downplay and ignore the dangers that put us on this road.”
The mayor and acting city manager have insisted that city policies prevent them from firing Groat because he has not been charged with a crime related to the Capitol insurrection, according to a detailed report that the weekly C-VILLE published Tuesday.
“The employee in question admits that he attended the events at the Capitol,” City Manager Michael Rogers said. said at a city government meeting on August 1. “He posted his presence on his social media page, he shared this information with the FBI and he was not arrested.”
“He is very sad about his activities,” Rogers added. “He’s been through a lot of personal loss. Considering all of the circumstances, including the fact that it has been a year and a half without any action, I conclude that no further action or review is warranted in this matter. »
But just two days later, a message posted from a Truth Social account that appeared to belong to Groat didn’t seem so contrite. “Please pray for me as I was recently doxxed for my patriotic participation and it is affecting my career and relationships,” it read. The post was deleted after Conger posted a screenshot to Twitter.
Groat did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment for this story.
Rogers also claimed at the town meeting that the roughly 900 people arrested for their involvement in the insurrection were charged with ‘criminal activities’ which included acts of destruction, ‘not just their presence at the Capitol’ – seeming to suggest that Groat probably didn’t. breaking the law on January 6.
But Rogers, who declined to comment for this story, is wrong. Many arrests as of January 6, 2021, involve charges for simply being inside the Capitol. Those charges include “entering or remaining in a building or restricted area” and “marching, demonstrating, or picketing a Capitol building” — suggesting Groat could still be charged. (The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story regarding Groat’s case. Groat, according to Rogers, claimed he gave three interviews to FBI agents.)
“Five years ago, our community sounded the alarm to city officials about the brewing white supremacist terrorist attacks and those concerns have been woefully overlooked,” said United Church pastor Reverend Seth Whisperley. of Christ of Charlottesville, to HuffPost in a statement this week. . “I find it alarming that clear moral leadership is still lacking when the call now comes clearly from within the home.”
Whisperley helped mobilize counter-protesters ahead of the August 12, 2017 rally. The event ended with a neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others , in what has become one of the defining episodes of the Trump era. The then-president sadly responded to the traumatic events of the day by saying there were “very good people on both sides” of the protest.
In the years since until January 6, 2021, Whisperley and others in Charlottesville looked like modern-day Cassandrawarning that the wider MAGA movement risked committing worse political violence, to no avail.
“The City of Charlottesville’s continued support of Groat undermines the credibility of the city government and any anti-racism statements they make on paper,” Lisa Woolfork, another local anti-racism organizer, told HuffPost. “It reveals that the city, too, still welcomes white supremacy and fascism to the detriment of those who live here.”
A major link between Unite the Right and the attack on the Capitol, Woolfork argued, is the apathy of government officials toward the threat posed by the far right in America.
“Apathy pretends white supremacy is just a controversial viewpoint rather than an actual practice that harms people,” she said. “Too many people have advised activists and organizers to passively accept white supremacists marching through our streets, only to be shocked later by the deadly consequences of their presence.”
Kathryn Laughon, a A nursing professor at the University of Virginia and local anti-racism activist, said Groat had “took advantage of a risk-averse system that favors the status quo over making waves, and so kept his job.”
“Charlottesville is not unique,” Laughon said. “Given the number of participants in the January 6 insurgency, we know there must be hundreds of white supremacists across the country who have suffered no consequences. As a country, we must continue to fight. »