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Proud Boys had plan to occupy House buildings where Jan. 5 tour took place, court filing says

Details of the '1776 Returns' scheme were filed in court, revealing plans to infiltrate, execute, distract, occupy and sit in until new election demands were met.

WASHINGTON — Five Proud Boys leaders indicted on seditious conspiracy charges repeatedly discussed a desire for violent conflict if former President Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, prosecutors say.  

In one message posted on social media two days after the election, defendant Joseph Biggs allegedly wrote, “It’s time for f***ing War if they steal this s***.” In another post, Ethan Nordean allegedly wrote, “The spirit of 1776 has resurfaced.”

On Wednesday, details of this "1776 Returns" scheme — a five-point plan that aimed to occupy federal buildings until demands for new elections were met — were filed in court. 

Prosecutors say former Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, who was not in D.C. on Jan. 6 because of an arrest on weapons charges but is accused of coordinating Proud Boys operations remotely, had a nine-page document titled “1776 Returns” laying out a plan to occupy “crucial buildings” in D.C.

Credit: AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File
FILE - Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio wears a hat that says The War Boys during a rally in Portland, Ore., Sept. 26, 2020. Tarrio, the former top leader of the Proud Boys, will remain jailed while awaiting trial on charges that he conspired with other members of the far-right extremist group to attack the U.S. Capitol and stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory, a federal judge has ruled.

Among the targeted buildings on the list were the Cannon and Rayburn House Office Buildings. Both buildings were part of a tour escorted by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) on Jan. 5 in which the January 6th Committee has said individuals can be seen photographing stairways and security checkpoints. There is no information, however, suggesting any of the members of the tour were associated with the Proud Boys and none have been identified as defendants in any criminal cases stemming from the Capitol riot.

Credit: USCP
A still frame from footage released by the House committee investigating Jan. 6 shows a man photographing a staircase within the Capitol complex on Jan. 5.

The "1776 Returns" document described an overall goal of occupying federal buildings with "patriots" until their demands of a new election to be held on Jan. 20 were met. 

“We need many people as possible inside these buildings. These are OUR buildings, they are just renting space. We must show our politicians We the People are in charge," the document states.

The Proud Boys' demands for a new election called for:  

  • Paper ballots only 
  • No electronic voting  
  • No mail-in ballots 
  • No absentee ballots 
  • In-person voting, with an ID  
  • Monitoring by National Guard

Several people were designated as people to "watch" (Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), Vice President Mike Pence, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates) and praise was heaped on Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis ("We the People love you.").   

Several buildings were targeted either for occupation or vandalism to get their message out. On the list were the Russell, Dirksen and Hart Senate buildings and the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn House buildings. 

The Supreme Court building was also on the "Targeted Buildings" list. And as for perceived media adversary CNN, the stated goal was to have "patriots" "at least egg [the] doorway."

Credit: WUSA
Capitol Hill staffer Sharon Nichols spent January 6 hiding in her office in the Rayburn House Building, just 500 yards away from the riot.

The plan called for 50-person-minimum teams to target the buildings to be occupied. Each team was to identify a lead, a second in command, a "hypeman" and a recruiter for each building plus a minimum of 50 "patriots" per building, or it's a "no go for that building." 

Here's how it was supposed to work

The lead was tasked with setting up a fake appointment in the building, spending the day as an insider and then letting people inside on Jan. 6. 

A second in command was to also make a fake appointment and was to take the place of the lead if discovered. 

The hypeman was tasked with leading chants and keeping the energy and presence up. 

The recruiter was charged with getting the "patriots" assembled at each building.

The "1776 Returns" document said that Jan 1-5, 2020, was preparation time and Jan. 6 was “Execution Day.”  

Here's how they planned '1776 Returns'

The document filed Wednesday showed a planned distribution of the scheme to "patriots" nationwide. The “Patriot Plan” was to be released on the internet to find like-minded individuals, with hard copies of the plan to be given out at Trump's Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse. 

Organizers were tasked with making the role assignments and setting up the “fake appointments.” 

The pandemic also came into play, with "patriots" encouraged to wear masks that day, to avoid detection.

“Use COVID to your advantage. Pack huge face masks and face shields, protect your identity.," the document said. "Make sure everyone has food and water to last a day in their backpacks.” 

Credit: Department of Justice
Proud Boy Ryan Ashlock, of Kansas (circled in red), marches with others toward the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021.

The plan also called for figuring out what roads would be closed on Jan. 6 and suggested reaching out to truckers or motorcyclists who supported Trump to help with blocking roads. 

In particular, the "1776 Returns" plan sought to use a large caravan of cars as "back-up blockers," ideally where Independence and Pennsylvania avenues meet and where Maryland and Constitution avenues meet, as well as C Street SE and New Jersey Ave.  

The 'Execution Day' plan

On Jan. 6, platters intended to send scouts out in the morning to check out the roadblocks and update plans as needed.

They then were to follow a five-point plan: 

  • Infiltrate
  • Execute
  • Distract if necessary
  • Occupy
  • Sit-in  

Leads were to arrive at targeted buildings first thing in the morning and were instructed to “be dressed in suits and unsuspecting, do not look tactical at all.”

Recruiters outside were to hand out the printed plan and gather support at the rally.  

Leads and seconds in command were to open the doors to let people in. “This might include causing trouble - bar the front doors to distract guards who may be holding the doors off. It could also mean pulling the fire alarm.”  

The plan further said they would distract law enforcement if "patriots" weren’t being let into the buildings. 

After that, the occupation of the buildings would be underway. The plotters planned to present their demands for a new election and then hold sit-ins at specific lawmakers' offices if need be.   

Five members of the Proud Boys — Tarrio, Nordean, Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Dominic Pezzola — were indicted earlier this month on charges of seditious conspiracy. Nordean, Biggs, Rehl and a fourth defendant, Charles Donohoe, were indicted last March. Pezzola, who was charged separately a week after the Capitol riot, and Tarrio were added to the case in March. Donohoe pleaded guilty in April to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting a federal officer.

Credit: Department of Justice
Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola, left, and Charles Donohoe, right, carrying a stolen police riot shield on Jan. 6, 2021.
Credit: Carolyn Kaster / Associated press
Proud Boys Ethan Nordean (left) and Zachary Rehl (right) march toward the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

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