In the hours after the attempted insurrection at the U.S capital, some Republican lawmakers and those sympathetic to the pro-Trump demonstrations began squaring the blame for the calamity not on President Donald Trump, his supporters and fringe elements of the conspiratorial right, but rather on alleged “antifa infiltrators” they said were the cause of the disorder.
“Don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol,” said Republican Rep. Mo Brooks, who represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, in a series of tweets Thursday. “All may not be (and likely is not) what appears. Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.”
In a following tweet, Brooks said: “Evidence, much public, surfacing that many Capitol assaulters were fascist ANTIFAs, not Trump supporters.”
One popular piece of conspiratorial “evidence” for this theory was a photo by Agence France-Presse and others of rioters gathered inside the Capitol Building. A member of that group, whom we are identifying as Will Watson from Montgomery, is pictured far left with a large beard and hands across his chest, with what appeared to some to be a hammer and sickle tattooed on-top of one of his hands.
The symbol actually comes from the 2012 video game Dishonored. The “Outsider’s Mark,” as it’s called in the game, is a supernatural symbol given to Corvo Attano, the game’s protagonist, by the figure known as “The Outsider.” It grants the player mystic powers that are used throughout the game.
The mark has no history of ever being used as a political or conspiratorial symbol. The game’s creator posted on Twitter, dispelling the rumor that the tattoo was a communist symbol.
Watson, after discovering he was being labeled as a communist infiltrator on social media, posted on Snapchat, apparently dispelling the rumors. Others online have also wrongly identified him as “Jason Tankersley,” a white supremacist.
“They wanna call me Antifa because I have a video game tattoo on my hand and I was pleading for peaceful discourse,” Watson wrote in the Snapchat post, which was posted to Twitter and verified by APR. “Let em say what they will. The fake news won’t win against the thousands of patriots who recorded today.”
Watson, who apparently lives in Auburn, according to his Facebook, is active on social media, posting both about games and politics. His Twitter account has since been deactivated, but his accounts on Facebook, Twitch, where he streams games, and his Instagram remain active.
In posts on his Instagram, his tattoos are clearly visible.
Watson has not replied to a request for comment from APR.
On his Instagram account, he has regularly posted conspiracies related to the election and COVID-19, reposting videos from the conspiracy peddler Alex Jones and InfoWars. In one video, he claimed to have a disability that exempted him from wearing a mask at the Auburn restaurant Niffers. Other videos clearly support Trump.
In the same video, the tattoo in question is visible on his hand.
D.C.‘s Metropolitan Police Department has released photos of rioters sought for unlawful entry, vandalism and other crimes related to the riots, the photo of Watson being among those presented as persons of interest.
“We have collected numerous images of persons of interest that we are asking the community to helps us identify,” said D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee in an article by the New York Post. “These images depict individuals engaged in various acts of violence or property destruction.”
As of Wednesday, according to the Washington Post, more than 60 people have been arrested in connection with the riots. Dozens of people were injured, and five people died, including Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama, and a Capitol Police officer.