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Will Capitol rioters' guilty verdicts blunt extremism?

The U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021.
Jose Luis Magana
The U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021.

News Brief 

The first trial of Jan. 6th Capitol rioters resulted in a guilty verdict Tuesday, with hundreds more insurrection-related cases ongoing, including more than 40 defendants from the Mountain West.

That includes 12 people from Colorado, eight from Arizona, seven from Utah, six from Idaho, and five from Montana, according to a U.S. Department of Justice database.

But as more verdicts and sentences are doled out, how will that affect the extremist movements that brought these people to the U.S. Capitol?

Travis McAdam is with the nonprofit Montana Human Rights Network. He says the response depends on how deep into an extremist network or conspiracy theory they’ve gone.

“You have people who have really only taken a few sips of that extremist Kool-aid, and the insurrection and the arrests and the trials hopefully can pull some of those people back a little bit, can open some eyes,” he said.

Some of those who have gone deeper into extremism have instead viewed the rioters as heroes or part of a larger conspiracy.

McAdam says the Oath Keepers militia saw significant negative effects from the capitol riot fallout. But he also says other far-right groups have used the pandemic and emerging political issues to try and recruit even more members.

Another major concern for him is that some of those involved in the Jan. 6th insurrection weren’t “card-carrying” members of far-right or conspiracy-minded groups, but still “got whipped up into a frenzy and stormed the capitol.”

“I think the other thing that these cases and these stories can show us is: how people are, if not radicalized, motivated to take action on these conspiracy theories,” he said.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.
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