When Ray Epps, now 61, arrived in Washington DC in early January, 2021, he believed he was answering the decision of his president.
Mr Epps was one of many 1000’s of MAGA loyalists who believed former President Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election had been stolen. He additionally thought he and a throng of conservative allies would protest the election’s certification.
The night time earlier than the Capitol riot on Jan 6, Mr Epps instructed a crowd of fellow Trump supporters that they need to enter the Capitol. This change was caught on video. He didn’t name for violence, and later claimed that he was encouraging a peaceable protest contained in the constructing.
Nearly 900 folks have been arrested for his or her participation within the failed riot that occurred the next day. Though Mr Epps shouldn’t be amongst that quantity, he has nonetheless develop into the main focus of a MAGA-world conspiracy idea inserting the blame for your complete debacle squarely on his shoulders.
Who is Ray Epps?
Mr Epps is a former Marine who runs a marriage and occasion venue in Queen Creek, Arizona. He describes himself as a staunch conservative, and was a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Mr Epps went to Washington DC believing that the 2020 election had been stolen. Politico has reported that Mr Epps is a former Oath Keeper, the militant right-wing gang whose members are presently underneath investigation on seditious conspiracy expenses.
Since the Capitol riot, his life has been turned the wrong way up by the very folks he as soon as marched alongside.
The conspiracy idea
After failing to pin the Capitol riot on Antifa, right-wing media shops refocused their efforts to reshape their narrative round Mr Epps. According to the New York Times, obscure right-wing shops like Revolver Media started reporting on selectively-edited movies of Mr Epps throughout the Capitol riot, and later capitalised on the footage from 5 January through which he known as for folks to enter the Capitol.
The idea claims that Mr Epps, who was not arrested within the wake of the Capitol riot regardless of apparently encouraging folks to enter the constructing and taking part within the occasion himself, may solely have evaded regulation enforcement if he was working with the federal government.
To clarify this obvious contradiction, shops and conspiracy theorists determined that Mr Epps needed to have been an FBI agent despatched into the group to stir dissent and arrange a “false flag” occasion meant to justify the incarceration of tons of of Trump supporters.
Larger right-wing media platforms, together with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, picked up on the story, thrusting Mr Epps into the mainstream conservative consciousness. Republican lawmakers together with Senator Ted Cruz and Representatives Thomas Massie, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Matt Gaetz leapt on the idea of their efforts to reframe the Capitol riot narrative.
Mr Trump himself finally signed onto the conspiracy idea, feeding the person who believed his lies into the right-wing conspiracy machine’s ever hungry maw.
What actually occurred?
Days after the Capitol riot, Mr Epps discovered that the FBI was treating him as an individual of curiosity in its then nascent investigation into the riot. He instantly known as the company and agreed to name them to debate what had occurred.
During their talks, Mr Epps insisted that he had remained peaceable and had instructed different rioters to do the identical. Video footage that was finally edited and used to counsel Mr Epps was inciting violence truly confirmed that he was attempting to speak down different protesters who have been getting indignant.
In one video, he tells one other protester, Ryan Samsel, to calm down and reminds him that the Capitol police have been doing their jobs. According to the Times, Mr Samsel was questioned by the FBI and absolutely corroborated Mr Epps’ model of occasions.
“He came up to me and he said, ‘Dude’ — his entire words were, ‘Relax, the cops are doing their job,’” Mr Samsel instructed investigators.
Further, Mr Epps was capable of show that he had left the Capitol earlier than the violence started in earnest. A protester who had fallen ailing required assist away from the chaos, and Mr Epps volunteered to assist lead them out.
Since then, Mr Epps’ life has turned the wrong way up. He has develop into a persona non grata in conservative circles attributable to his affiliation with the conspiracy idea.
After the conspiracy idea picked up steam, Mr Epps started receiving demise threats and even had intruders trespass on his property. According to Mr Epps, these people approached him and demanded to know the “truth” about his supposed involvement with the FBI.
He has needed to go away his house in Arizona and is presently hiding out in an RV together with his spouse at an undisclosed location.
Mr Epps instructed theTimes that he fears the course the US is heading, and known as what was performed to him “criminal.”
“I am at the center of this thing, and it’s the biggest farce that’s ever been,” he mentioned. “It’s just not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal.”
He is presently planning to pursue authorized motion towards the people and organisations he believes defamed him within the wake of the Capitol riot.