​People tying Capitol rioter John Sullivan to BLM and Antifa are missing some key facts
Rebellion Baby/Twitter, New York Post/Twitter

Ever since pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, some people have tried to blame the attack on other groups—namely, Antifa and BLM.

A false Washington Times report—which spread like wildfire—claimed Antifa members had been identified at the riot by a facial recognition software company. As it turned out, the men identified by the software company were actually neo-Nazis, not Antifa, and the story was corrected. But not before Congressman Matt Gaetz cited the original, false story on the House floor. In fact, some people are still talking about the false story as fact. Despite being corrected, the damage has been done.

Now there's another story spreading like wildfire, which is also false. A man named John Sullivan was arrested for taking part in the Capitol riot, and he is being paraded as the poster boy for BLM involvement in planning and carrying out the insurrection. The New York Post, Fox News, Politico, and other outlets initially referred to him as a "left-wing activist" in their headlines.



The problem is, Sullivan was kicked out of BLM protest movements in multiple cities months ago.

In a long Twitter thread, a group called Rebellion Baby detailed the various protest groups around the country that had cut ties with Sullivan, characterizing him as a possible "agent provocateur" or "infiltrator" with ties to the right-wing. (Note that the date of this thread is November of 2020, and that the thread was put out as a warning to Seattle protest groups to keep him away.)

"John has been kicked from the #SaltLakeCity and #Portland protest scenes due to alarming behaviors including grifting/profiteering, self-promotion/clout chasing, sabotage of community actions, threats of violence, and — maybe most disturbingly — ties to the far-right," Rebellion Baby wrote. "In short — John's brother, James, is the co-founder of a pro-Trump org called 'Civilized Awakening,' and has strong ties to Proud Boys — even having spoken at a Proud Boy rally. The brothers' polarized political stances conveniently bolster the other's public personas. Activists in these cities recommend that he be barred from community actions and totally avoided."

Sullivan has multiple social media accounts under multiple names, and frequently adds new ones as he gets called out. For example, he used to be known as "Activist John" but started going by "Jayden X" as different protest groups started warning one another about him.

In addition, the website for the organization he founded, called Insurgence USA, describes itself as "started in 2020 in response to the Gorge Floyd tragedy"—the misspelling of "George" included.

It sounds like John Sullivan may be more interested in sowing chaos for funsies and making money off of activism-minded people than actually standing for anything in particular. In any protest movement, the majority of people are sincere in what they are protesting, but are some people who join in just to cause a ruckus, make a buck, or watch the world burn.

In a new and even longer thread shared since Sullivan's arrest, Rebellion Baby wrote, "While it's still unclear if John's end goal is chaos and confusion or if this is simply a side effect of shameless grifting — it's clear that he continues to be a threat to protester safety whether he's on the ground or online."

"John's top priorities are centering himself and making a buck — even if people are harmed in the process," they added.

More reports are coming out with similar information about Sullivan's involvement in protests this summer and how he was banished from various protest movements.

Sullivan's actions in the Capitol were odd at best. He told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was at the Capitol to "watch history" as a "journalist," but he doesn't have any press credentials. He entered the building through a broken window. He filmed the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, who later died. He can be heard in his own videos yelling "We accomplished this sh--. We did this together," and, "We are all a part of this history. ... Let's burn this s--- down," among other inciting language.

He claims he had to act like he fit in to avoid being attacked himself. "I have to blend into the f------ crowd because, you know, there's a lot of people who wanted to hurt me," he said.

Sullivan is from Utah but is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter Utah, and the group told the Tribune he has never been a member.

Investigations into the Black Lives Matter protests and the riots that stemmed from them found that some instances of violence, (which took place in a very small percentage of the protests overall) were instigated by white supremacists. The killer of two police officers in Oakland during the protests was found to be part of the right-wing "Boogaloo Bois" movement. So the idea of opposing groups infiltrating a protest movement is not uncommon and totally possible.

However, both the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice have said that they have seen no evidence in their investigations so far that there was Antifa involvement in the Capitol riot. And there have been no credible reports of BLM involvement, either.

Besides, it takes a pretty pretzel-like stretch of the imagination to think that people who are well-known in the QAnon and pro-Trump world, who posted on social media before the riot talking about doing storming the Capitol, who are on video shouting about how they were storming the Capitol as they were doing it, and then also on video bragging about storming the Capitol after they did it, were not actually the ones doing it.

If John Sullivan's participation is the only piece of evidence that BLM or Antifa caused the destruction and violence at the U.S. Capitol—and not insurrectionists trying to keep Trump in power—that's proof in and of itself that the idea is total fantasy.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

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