More than 400 people have been charged in relation to the Jan. 6 events at the U.S. Capitol, and there is ample evidence that many protesters defied and assaulted Capitol Police officers that day. Yet viral social media posts are falsely claiming a video clip proves that “Capitol Police gave protesters OK” to enter the building. The video clip does not depict that.
The Democrat-controlled House, with support from 35 Republicans, voted on May 19 to create a commission to probe the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol — though Republican resistance in the Senate may block the bill from passing.
As political fighting over that inquiry continues, and federal authorities move forward with their criminal investigation, unsupported claims about the events persist online.
One recent, widespread narrative falsely alleges that a new video clip depicts police officers granting protesters permission to enter the Capitol. But the footage in question does not show that.
A May 16 story on the website American Greatness — headlined, “Video Shows U.S. Capitol Police Gave Protesters OK to Enter” — was shared on Facebook more than 7,000 times, according to CrowdTangle analytics data.
The Gateway Pundit, a hub for misinformation, rehashed the claim in a story shared on Facebook about 1,600 times and repeated it in an Instagram post viewed more than 111,000 times. A radio show in Texas, “Walton & Johnson,” ran a similar May 18 headline.
The American Greatness story cites a 44-second video clip, which the website uploaded to Rumble, that was taken outside the Senate chambers of the Capitol. It shows a police officer, identified as Keith Robishaw, engaging with a group of protesters — who, we note, are shown already inside the Capitol building.
The article says that Robishaw “appears to tell” the “group they won’t stop them from entering the building.” But nowhere in the video clip does Robishaw say that.
The clip shows a man telling fellow protesters that “police here are willing to work with us and cooperate peacefully like our First Amendment allows,” and encourages the group to be peaceful. It soon moves to Robishaw urging the protesters to remain calm.
“We’re not against … you need to show … then show us, no attacking, no assault, remain calm,” Robishaw can be heard saying.
U.S. Capitol Police in an email statement to us denied that the clip showed anything inappropriate.
“There is no evidence of misconduct in the short video clip,” the statement said. “The officers are blocking the hallway and attempting to de-escalate the situation, as they are trained to, by telling the crowd to not attack or assault and to remain calm. The Department is working closely with its federal law enforcement officers to ensure the criminals who unlawfully broke into the U.S. [Capitol] during the Joint Session of Congress are successfully prosecuted.”
The viral claim also fails to acknowledge the ample public evidence — including videos released by the FBI — documenting protesters violently assaulting officers at the Capitol, as law enforcement tried to prevent rioters from accessing parts of the building. Other footage show rioters breaking through a metal barrier outside the Capitol, as officers tried to hold it in place. Rioters were also captured on video breaking windows of the building to enter.
The Justice Department has reported that about 140 officers were assaulted that day — about 80 Capitol Police officers and 60 D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officers. More than 400 people have so far been arrested in relation to the Jan. 6 events, and nearly 90 were arrested for assaulting law enforcement officers, according to the FBI.
Some protesters and their lawyers have argued that some officers gave up or stood by during the riot, and that protesters thought they were allowed to be there. Whether any defendants can effectively make that case isn’t clear, but as we said, this particular clip doesn’t prove the protesters were simply given permission to enter the building.
In its article, American Greatness reported that it “obtained the video from RMG News” and that the “44-second clip is reportedly part of a much longer video that has yet to be released.”
We reached out to RMG News — which describes itself as providing “adrenaline-filled, breaking news footage” to media outlets — for more context on the video clip.
Howard Raishbrook, the agency’s president, told us in an email that it “often syndicates content given to us by freelance photographers and videographers. This was the case with the Capitol footage from January the 6th.”
Raishbrook said the agency didn’t have anyone at the Capitol on its behalf, but that it accrued “81 minutes of content that HAS been released and seen by all network news stations. A lot of people have seen the content, paid for it, published it, aired it or discussed it around the world.”
He said “ALL footage has been released. We are not holding anything back” — though he noted that the agency’s “entire content is not online anywhere.” He declined to provide us the name of the person who gave his agency the specific footage in question.
In a video posted to YouTube by RMG News on Jan. 7, different footage from the same area of the Capitol shows protesters yelling at the same officers.
One protester asks an officer, “What’s the point of stopping us at this point?” That officer responds, “That’s as far as it’s going to go.”
U.S. attorneys in a January court filing in the case of Jacob Chansley — a QAnon supporter who also goes by Jake Angeli and who was seen at the Capitol wearing a distinct, furry headdress — said that “Robishaw and other officers calmed the protestors somewhat and directed them to leave the area from the same way they had entered.”
“Most protestors complied, but Chansley disobeyed the order and instead began heading up a different stairwell towards the Senate floor,” they wrote. “Officer Robishaw, alone with more than 25 rioters in the Senate Chamber, attempted to engage with Chansley and asked for his assistance to use the bullhorn to get the protestors out of the Chamber.”
Another video, taken by a reporter and published by the New Yorker, indeed shows Robishaw following Chansley into the Senate. Initially, there are only several protesters in the chamber — though the crowd later grows.
In that video, as Chansley is on the dais, Robishaw can be heard asking, “Any chance I can get you guys to leave the Senate wing?” He adds: “I just want you to let you guys know that this is like the sacred-est place.”
At one point, a protester says “you should be stopping us,” to which Robishaw responds that there are several protesters in the chamber, who would outnumber him. “I’m making sure you guys don’t do anything else,” he says.
Seemingly responding to Chansley taking a photo on the dais, Robishaw continues: “Now that you guys have done that, can I get you guys to walk out of this room please?”
So, in short, additional footage publicly available shows the police officer at the center of the viral claim following a protester into the Senate, then repeatedly asking the protesters to leave. None of the footage that we reviewed indicates he gave them permission to enter the building in the first place.
Our colleagues at PolitiFact also reviewed the same claim, similarly finding that it wasn’t supported by the 44-second video clip.
The author of the American Greatness piece, Julie Kelly, disputed that conclusion — tweeting that “what is obvious to everyone who views this clip” is that “USCP, including a top official, tell protestors not to attack anyone and to remain calm.”
But officers telling protesters already inside the Capitol “not to attack anyone and to remain calm” isn’t the same as police giving an “OK to Enter” the building.
We reached out to the editor of American Greatness, Chris Buskirk, to ask whether the site stood by its headline about the video clip, but have not yet heard back.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.
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