Utah activist John Sullivan was booked at the Tooele County Jail on a warrant Thursday for allegedly participating in last week’s rioting at the U.S. Capitol.
Sullivan was charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with civil disorder, being in a restricted area and disorderly conduct.
He previously told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was there to take videos and “watch history” as a journalist. He said he took a video of Ashli Babbitt being shot by Capitol police near the House floor. She later died.
“I was there to observe; I was there to see what they were going to do,” he said.
An affidavit from the Department of Justice says Sullivan told federal agents he is a journalist but doesn’t have any press credentials. An investigation has not revealed “any connection between Sullivan and any journalistic organizations,” according to the affidavit.
Much of the evidence against Sullivan comes from his own videos.
On Jan. 6, after supporters of President Donald Trump surrounded the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sullivan shot video of rioters breaking down police barricades. Once the crowd is through, Sullivan can be heard yelling, “We accomplished this sh--. We did this together,” and, “We are all a part of this history. ... Let’s burn this s--- down,” according to the affidavit.
Later, the video includes footage of rioters climbing a wall to reach a plaza outside the entrance to the Capitol building. Sullivan can be heard shouting “let’s go” and other encouraging words to the people climbing the wall, according to the affidavit. At one point, Sullivan tells a person trying to climb the wall to give Sullivan his hand.
Wearing a ballistic vest and a gas mask, according to the documents, Sullivan entered the Capitol building through a broken window.
Once inside the Capitol, Sullivan went into an office, walked over to a window and said, “We did this s---. We took this s---,” according to the affidavit. A knocking sound is heard off-screen, and when the camera pans back to the window, part of it that was not broken when Sullivan arrived is broken. Sullivan can be heard saying, “I broke it. My bad, my apologies,” according to the affidavit.
At one point during the riot, Sullivan was part of a crowd trying to push their way into a room guarded by police officers, according to the documents. He allegedly yelled that he had a knife and asked for people to “let him up.”
In a video posted on his YouTube channel, Sullivan says he wasn’t in D.C. to be a participant in the riot. He says he only appeared to be participating in the riots so he could blend in for his own safety.
“I have to blend in to the f------ crowd because, you know, there’s a lot of people who wanted to hurt me,” he said.
Sullivan is the founder of Insurgence USA, a Utah group focused on police reform and racial justice that he started after the death of George Floyd. An online fundraiser says the group wants to build local power to enable the community to “intervene in violence enacted by the state and government vigilantes.”
However, he is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter Utah. Lex Scott, founder of BLM Utah, told The Tribune on Thursday that Sullivan has never been a member.
Sullivan is also facing charges of rioting and criminal mischief in connection with an ongoing case about a June 30 protest in Provo where a truck driver was shot. Police say he was an organizer of the protest and spoke with one of the men who allegedly fired the gun after the shooting.