Partly because of this, the group has mostly evaded scrutiny for the violence at the Capitol—which came as lawmakers were scheduled to convene and certify the results of the 2020 election, affirming Joe Biden as the winner and Donald Trump the loser. Tarrio himself was not present: He was arrested on his way into D.C. earlier in the week and charged for a misdemeanor for his alleged role tearing down Black Live Matter signs from a Black church in December. During the arrest, police discovered two high-capacity magazines, emblazoned with Proud Boy insignia, and charged him with an additional felony. Upon his release, a judge ordered him to stay away from D.C.
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A Proud Boy in Disguise Helped Lead the Insurrection at the Capitol
The man caught on video breaking a window at the Capitol with a riot shield is a member of the Proud Boys who goes by the alias “Spazzo.”
Proud Boy known as "Spazzo" marches in Washington, DC in support of President Trump on Dec. 12, 2020. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
The man with long hair in the nondescript grey coat smashed the glass protecting the west side of the U.S. Capitol with just three jabs of a riot shield. As the glass fell from the window, a small crowd, many in MAGA hats and tactical gear, shouted “GO, GO, GO!” and clambered one by one into the seat of American government, one of the first breaches of the building’s inner sanctum by violent actors since the 1800s.
Those swings of a riot shield were pivotal in the attempted insurrection that occurred on January 6 in Washington, D.C. The rioters who streamed inside proceeded to unlock doors, opening up the building for other insurrectionists hungry for chaos.Now, after extensively reviewing open-source videos, VICE News can report that the man who broke the window is a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right street-fighting gang linked to several recent acts of violence in D.C., who uses the alias “Spazzo.” (Gavin McInnes was a co-founder of VICE. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then. He later founded the Proud Boys in 2016.)The FBI included images of “Spazzo” in and around the Capitol as part of a dossier of rioters whom they consider people of interest, and asked the public to come forward with any information that could lead to their arrest. Spazzo’s actions, caught on video by journalist Brendan Gutenschwager, shed light on what the Proud Boys were up to at the Capitol on January 6.
The Proud Boys typically move around public demonstrations like a small army, flooding entire blocks in their trademark black and yellow colors. But on this day, their strategy was to avoid detection. Their self-styled “chairman,” Enrique Tarrio, had ordered the Proud Boys to go “incognito” and dress in plain clothes, so while they were central to the planning, inciting, and execution of the insurrection that led to five deaths, their role was not immediately obvious from the video disseminated from the scene.
In a stream from before the rally, Joe Biggs, a former InfoWars staffer who led the Proud Boys in Tarrio’s absence, reiterated the plan for the group not to wear their traditional colors. “We will not be attending D.C. in colors. We will be blending in as one of you. You won't see us. You'll even think we are you,” Biggs said. “We are going to smell like you, move like you, and look like you. The only thing we'll do that's us is think like us! Jan 6th is gonna be epic.”
Based on YouTube videos posted by Proud Boy streamer Eddie Block, Biggs, clad in a blue plaid shirt, was running the show on January 6, alongside “Rufio Panman,” aka Ethan Michael Nordean. President of Philadelphia Proud Boys Zach Rehl is also up front and center. Block’s video shows that Proud Boys leaders were down in the area by the Capitol at least 40 minutes before Trump had even started speaking at the main event by the Washington Monument. In those videos, Biggs and Nordean, both accessorized with walkie-talkies, lead a gaggle of about 60 or more Proud Boys around the Capitol. They chanted “Fuck antifa!” and “Whose streets? Our streets.” (Separately, VICE News observed at least two smaller groups of Proud Boys positioned near the Washington Monument during Trump’s speech). Some of the Proud Boys donned fluorescent orange hats—which were apparently intended to help them identify one another in their incognito gear. Others had bright orange bands tied onto their arms. On Block’s video, a young man in tactical gear with a stripe of orange tape on his helmet is seen walking a short distance behind Biggs. (A couple hours later, he was filmed cheering Spazzo on as he broke the Capitol window, and was among the first to climb through into the building.)Biggs is heard giving military-style orders to his troop of plain-clothed Proud Boys, telling them to “Tighten up,” “Hold,” or turn. In the past, he’s bragged that Proud Boys events are a tightly run ship.
“When we set out to do an event, we go, OK, what is our main objective? That’s the first thing we discuss. We take three months to plan an event,” Biggs said on a podcast last month. “It’s like, you’re literally planning to go into a combat zone. It’s not just like, ‘Hey man, we’re going to D.C., we’re going to Portland. It’s like, ‘Alright, we’re going to Portland. I need satellite imagery. I need to talk to people on the ground. I need them to scout out these alleyways… when we have an escape route, we have four or five ways in and out, in case police close things off or whatever.”If the goal of going “incognito” at the January 6 action was to blend in with the crowd and go unnoticed—mission accomplished.
While VICE News has been unable to confirm Spazzo’s true identity, we have learned that he’s a known entity in Proud Boy circles and has previously attended events wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the group’s name and logo. In the run-up to January 6, Tarrio shared a photo on Parler of Spazzo with his hair slicked back and his face painted. The photo was originally taken by a Washingtonian photographer at a pro-Trump rally in D.C. on December 12. The image shows the man’s intense painted face as he stares down some antifa activists, under the caption “Lords of War” alongside hashtags “#J6” and #J20”, referring to the certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress and date of Biden’s inauguration. One commenter responded enthusiastically to the image. “Spazzolini is the Marine in front,” he wrote in all caps. “An iconic Marine.” He identified the man standing behind Spazzo as his son, a tattoo artist from Newburgh, New York, also dressed in Proud Boy apparel. “That is my son standing for what is right,” he wrote.
In a Parler page for “Spazzo,” cached by Google on Dec. 20, he describes himself as a first-degree Proud Boy and a Marine vet. When the full account name for “Spazzo Spazzolini” is searched, the man who smashed the window with the riot shield can be seen wearing a Proud Boys shirt in an undated picture. Another image shows the man's bulletproof vest with “Proud Boy,” “Spazzo,” a marine flag patch, and a “FAFO” patch. FAFO is a Proud Boy Slogan that stands for “Fuck Around and Find Out.” VICE News was unable to view Spazzo’s full Parler account as the site is currently down. Of the few posts VICE News was able to see, Spazzo promoted the “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. and praised Parler owner and conservative commentator Dan Bongino as “one of our greatest warriors.”
Spazzo didn’t stop at just smashing the window and leading the insurrectionists inside the Capitol. In one of the most dramatic photos of the failed siege, the man can be seen deep inside the building confronting Capitol Police officers, still brandishing his riot shield. Beside him is the young man in tactical gear who’d marched alongside Proud Boy leaders earlier in the day. In front of him is Doug Jensen, a QAnon follower who would eventually out himself on Twitter and then be charged by the FBI. Moments before this photo was taken Jensen led the group in chasing a Black Capitol Police officer up a set of stairs and towards a hallway that leads to the Senate floor. Jensen faces five charges which include knowingly entering a restricted building, disrupting the orderly conduct of government business; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
The Proud Boys’ planning for Jan. 6 was mostly carried out in the open. They even released a promotional video with Proud Boy-affiliated rapper Loza Alexander performing a music video called “F.A.F.O.”“Fuck Black Lives Matter and antifa, I’m a proud Boy,” said Alexander, who is wearing a MAGA cap and heavily armed, standing in front of a giant Proud Boy sign. “This ain’t about the clout boy—pop a commie in his house, boy.”“Now it’s January 6th. Now what, bitch?” he continues, looking into his rifle scope and pointing the gun at the camera. “Before I tell your city, what happened to acting tough, bitch?” Biggs shared the video on Parler, and a version of the video is still up on YouTube, where it has garnered over 15,000 views. An earlier version was removed. Twitter sleuths and law enforcement have meanwhile identified other known Proud Boys from the Capitol Hill crowd. Nick Ochs, founder of “Proud Boys Hawaii” was arrested by the FBI upon his return to Oahu and charged him with a federal misdemeanor of unlawful entry into restricted buildings or grounds. He was released on bond on Monday and is restricted from traveling to D.C. aside from federally-mandated court appearances. Ochs, like the rest of his brethren, was incognito at the time of his alleged crime. Tarrio did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment about whether he condoned the actions of Spazzo or any other Proud Boys at the Capitol. In a post on Parler the day after the riots, Tarrio referred to those who stormed the Capitol as “heroes” and “revolutionaries.”Follow Tess and Mack on Twitter.