What's Up With This 'Activist John' Guy At Capitol Riots? We Will Try To Explain.
For the last week, there have been two competing narratives about what went down at the Capitol. There's the true one — that people who like to call themselves "patriots" stormed the Capitol in hopes of stopping the certification of the Electoral College and forcing Congress to give Trump another four years in office. Then there's the one where, actually, all of those people were Antifa/Black Lives Matter activists dressed up as Trump supporters who just wanted Trump supporters to look bad.
This is especially interesting in light of the fact that Proud Boys were openly talking about how they were actually planning on dressing up as Antifa/Black Lives Matter activists for the rally. Also in light of the fact that we know who a lot of these people are and yeah, they're all Trump supporters, professional white supremacists, QAnon people, etc. But some people can't let this go.
Like this guy who was able to pick out who the leftist agitators were because they were wearing their MAGA or Trump hats backwards like hooligans. That sure does sound like a thing.
Also pushing that narrative are Rudy Giuliani and Jack Posobiec, two of the MAGA rats who have been too stupid to flee the ship so far. This may soon become the immovable The Narrative, because they do (sort of) have someone to point the finger at right now — John Sullivan, AKA "Activist John." Sullivan, they are claiming, is an "Antifa/Black Lives Matter activist" who instigated the whole thing. This is some bullshit, but it's some very confusing bullshit, so we're gonna break it down for you.
Let's hope I'm better at explaining his bullshit to you now than I was at explaining it to my mom when he was on Anderson Cooper!
This morning, Giuliani tweeted a screencap from a text conversation with John Sullivan's brother James — a pro-Trump, Proud Boy-adjacent guy who founded a group called "Civilized Awakening" — who claimed he was "working with the FBI" to put the blame for everything that happened at the Capitol on his brother John and "226 antifa activists." That tweet has since been deleted because it included James Sullivan's phone number. Or — but this is surely asking too much — because Rudy Giuliani finally realized the text he'd tweeted only incriminated himself and his correspondents.
Text from Rudy Giuliani Tweet:
Why wasn't this presented to the witch Hunt Impeachment Congress. Because they have no interest in the truth that riots had nothing to do with the Trump speech. They were organized before speech and carried out on their own by groups like ANTIFA trained to riot.
Text of the message from James Sullivan's phone:
I'm currently working with the FBI to expose and place total blame on John and the 226 members of antifa that instigated the Capitol "riot" I was able to get my agent out of trouble along with three other uthan's.
I'll see what I can do with Kash, I wish I had (and that's where it cuts off)
That just sounds very factual, especially the part about him having "agents." Not sure what an "uthan" is though.
Posobiec, who has somehow avoided being kicked off of Twitter, has been tweeting about John Sullivan all week, including hilariously claiming that "President Trump has been briefed that federal investigators do not believe John Sullivan acted alone."
There are a few things here that are true. James Sullivan and John Sullivan are brothers. John Sullivan claims to be an Antifa/Black Lives Matter activist. He was at the riots and he was arrested. After that, however, it gets a little murky.
So what is his deal?!?
Sullivan, known alternately as "Activist John" or "Jayden X" has been a known entity in leftwing activist circles in various cities since this past summer — but not in any kind of positive way. Long story short, he would go to a city, try to infiltrate activist movements, cause trouble and then try to move on to the next city, whereupon he would try to pull the same crap. He is shady as hell and the general assumptions about him have been that he is a narc of some kind, that he is simply an inept focus-stealing narcissist, or that he is an independent agent provocateur who just wants to cause chaos. Sullivan has frequently described himself as apolitical.
In addition to recently attempting to cozy up to our local orgs, (Including Rebellion Baby. Stop trying to be frien… https://t.co/47VCkVYqah— Rebellion Baby (@Rebellion Baby) 1606385161.0
He and his brother James, both Black, were adopted and raised by a white conservative (high-ranking) military family in Utah. Obviously, James stayed super right-wing. John, a former Olympic speed-skating hopeful, claims that he didn't really have any ideas about anything until this summer when George Floyd was killed by police. He then got involved with Black Lives Matter activists in Utah, but apparently caused so much trouble and caused so many people to get arrested (and was always quickly released himself, which is why some people think he's a narc) that those activists ended up calling his brother James — the one who hangs out with Proud Boys — to ask him for his help in keeping John the hell away from them.
Via The Gray Zone:
After John Sullivan was let out on bail, his brother, James, said he was contacted by members of the Salt Lake City chapter of BLM beseeching him for help in driving John out of their community.
"That actually was a weird phone call," James recalled. "They reached out to me, and they said, 'Hey, this is what John's doing. We're trying to get this stuff done and he's getting people hurt and arrested. You know, and they don't need to be arrested. These are good people that are going to prison because John would incite violence.'"
In July, John Sullivan organized a purportedly left-wing rally in Provo, Utah ... and gave Proud Boy leader Thad "Chief" Cisneros and some militia members a platform to speak at it. At some point he founded an "organization" (that is probably just him) called Insurgence USA. He has a network of social media accounts that all link to each other, some of which repeat fascist talking points about violent "riotporn."
He then went out to Portland where he was similarly banned, and then to DC and the same thing happened there.
OH! Also, for most of this time, both John and James have been the subject of a documentary by photojournalist Jade Sacker — the woman you can see with him in the Anderson Cooper interview below, about two brothers with wildly divergent views.
What happened on the day of the riots?
In the days leading up to the 1/6, John and James Sullivan both promoted their own separate events — James helped organize the Stop the Steal rally and John attempted to hold a "Dump Trump" rally at the Washington Monument. No one showed up to John's rally because BLM leaders had specifically said not to show up to counterprotest, so he eventually ended up going over to the Capitol building where the action was.
He then took a bunch of videos, accompanied by Sacker, in which he at least sounded exactly like all of the Trump supporters, cheering and going all "We did it!" and what have you. From the FBI affidavit seeking his arrest:
After the crowd broke through the last barricade, and as SULLIVAN and the others approach the Capitol Building, SULLIVAN can be heard in the video saying at various points: "There are so many people. Let's go. This shit is ours! Fuck yeah," "We accomplished this shit. We did this together. Fuck yeah! We are all a part of this history," and "Let's burn this shit down."
Then, afterwards, he ended up on Anderson Cooper sounding like an idiot and leftwing activists all over the country were pretty mad at Cooper's production staff for not looking into who Sullivan was and just putting him up there as a "leftwing activist."
What is happening now?
John Sullivan has been arrested, and his brother James is now behind all of the claims that he instigated the whole thing, along with 226 other antifa activists, a wonderfully specific number that evokes the ever-changing amount of McCarthy's Communists in the State Department. James's claim that John instigated the whole thing is curious, considering that he seems to be otherwise aware that his brother is not actually that committed to these causes and has been kicked out of these communities.
Via The Gray Zone:
"What he does is he creates hysteria, and he takes these phony videotapes of it, so that's why he got kicked out of the movement [in Utah]," James Sullivan said. "They kicked him out because he would he would instigate violence to the point that people would get would get arrested. And then he would get views on Facebook or YouTube… He's doing it for attention."
We suppose it's possible he's an equal-opportunity violence instigator, but he didn't smash the windows in, he didn't lead any sort of charge, and he wasn't anywhere near the fellows beating cops almost to death with (or near) Blue Lives Matter flags.
Via a tipster, here’s terrifying video pulled from Infowars that shows the attempted murder of D.C. Metropolitan Po… https://t.co/L3YW08Vpvx— Ryan J. Reilly (@Ryan J. Reilly) 1610722965.0
So What's The Verdict?
It is highly unlikely that John Sullivan was somehow solely responsible for everything that went down in the Capitol — particularly since it's not clear that anyone was even paying any attention to him (the videos have since been taken down, but he mostly seemed to be on his own). I don't think you can really "No True Scotsman" leftwing activism, because I suppose it's not really something you have to get prior approval to call yourself, but I would say that it would be a stretch to call a self-described apolitical person (who has been kicked out of every leftwing activist movement he has attempted to be a part of) a "leftwing activist."
Seems like perhaps he and his brother are both just grifters who get high off of starting drama and getting attention for it, and that they're both playing it up because someone is making a documentary about them. [Rebecca is far more suspicious about the agents, and Rudy Giuliani, and "working with the FBI," and suspects there's more COINTELPRO than meets the eye.] And also Rudy Giuliani, Jack Posobiec and others promoting this narrative are getting pretty desperate.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse