Research and writing on this paper was led by one of CTEC’s Winter Term interns. For safety reasons, we are publishing this piece anonymously. If you are a journalist, researcher, or other professional who would like to speak to the author, contact us at CTEC@middlebury.edu.
On January 6, 2021, a small portion (approx. 10-20) of the individuals present at the U.S. Capitol “wore near-identical lower-face masks depicting skeletal jaws contorted into…a ‘vicious Cheshire grin.’” These face coverings — known as Siege masks (named after James Mason’s book) — were first popularized by the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division in 2016. The mask signifies adherence to accelerationism — a tactic of political violence taken to ‘accelerate’ the destruction of liberal democracy. Although accelerationism transcends a variety of extremist milieus, the neo-Nazi skull mask-wearers at the Capitol on January 6 were force amplifiers who seized an opportunity — created by former Pres. Trump — to generate chaos and promote violence that day.
Several of these individuals stand out for the aggressive nature of their actions. James Tate GRANT, a twenty-nine-year-old man from North Carolina, was one of the first individuals to breach a restricted area of the Capitol grounds. He assaulted police officers and forced them to retreat. GRANT later breached two Senate offices. At least three skull mask-wearing Proud Boys — Anthony SARGENT, Jeffery Xavier FINLEY, and Arthur JACKMAN — also breached the Capitol (SARGENT and others incurred more than $1,000 of damage to the north doors as well). An unidentified man referred to as “FBI #408” (referenced online as “SkullGreedo”) is wanted for assault on a federal officer. A preliminary review of relevant video footage suggests that “FBI #408” may have also been involved in the theft of Speaker Pelosi’s HP laptop.
These are just a few profiles of the skull mask-wearing individuals present at the Capitol on January 6. Many of these individuals remain unidentified. A recent report indicates that “although some accelerationists from other groups still don skull masks on occasion, the movement as a whole has started to move away from them [instead m]odern guides on making accelerationist propaganda say to wear black balaclavas instead.” Such was the attire of Riley June WILLIAMS — a Pennsylvania woman in her early twenties and a known adherent to deep accelerationism — at the Capitol last year. WILLIAMS was arguably the most concerning accelerationist present at the Capitol that day. She actively encouraged a crowd to proceed up the steps leading to Speaker Pelosi’s office. WILLIAMS assaulted and interfered with officers. She videoed and encouraged the theft of Speaker Pelosi’s HP laptop. On Discord (a messaging app), WILLIAMS claimed that she stole a gavel and hard drives belonging to Speaker Pelosi. Her actions that day — and those of the skull mask-wearers — warrant great scrutiny by this committee.