John Earle Sullivan
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Sullivan was adopted and grew up in Stafford, Virginia. His family was deeply conservative and Mormon, and moved to Utah around 2013. Sullivan got involved in speed skating, despite never having skated on ice before moving to Utah. By 2016 he was driving for Uber, leading to a 2016 TV commercial blog post on Uber's site, describing him as "searching for a way to earn money that fit with his busy training schedule".
Sullivan started attending Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests from June 2020. According to Lex Scott, the founder of Black Lives Matter-Utah, none of the activists knew him before that. He has also engaged in anti-government commentary, calling for burning down the current political system and replacing it with another system, so it benefits the people and grants them more freedoms.
Sullivan founded Insurgence USA, a group participating in the protests against police violence. The group's web site says it was founded "in response to the George Floyd tragedy" to "end police brutality" and "empower and uplifting black and indigenous voices". Sullivan organized events in Provo, Utah. In one event he invited the Proud Boys to speak to the Black activists. He also organized another event, a counter-protest to a pro-police event on June 29, 2020 when a Back the Blue protest was held consisting of a number of vehicles driving around Provo police station. Sullivan and others organized a counter-protest blocking vehicles. At the protest, shots were fired into a vehicle and one driver was injured. One man, Jesse Taggart, was charged with attempted murder. According to a police affidavit after the shooting, Sullivan damaged vehicles and cooperated with Insurgence USA to recruit protesters for a protest. Sullivan indicated that he thought the driver who was shot at was trying to run over protesters.
On July 22, 2020 Sullivan held a solo armed protest at the Utah State Capitol, carrying an AR-15. The protest lasted a couple of hours, during which he was confronted by twenty armed men from Utah Citizens' Alarm.
Sullivan was treated with suspicion in left-wing activist circles, with labor activist Talia Jane said he is "reviled throughout the activist space" and noted he had been escorted from a December 12 event at Black Lives Matter Plaza after he was identified. Many suspect him to be a double agent working for law enforcement. An activist from Portland warned people not to trust him, after he got local activists arrested in September 2020 by leading them down a wrong route and into a police kettle. Anonymous activists from Seattle published a memo in November 2020 accusing him of being an agent provocateur, pointing to him getting activists arrested or exposing their identities. Activists noted that his brother is a pro-Trump supporter, a supporter of the "Blexit" movement and speaking at a Proud Boys rally. After a man was shot in Provo during the protests in summer 2020, a right-wing militia started appearing to police Sullivan's group. During one of his rallies, Sullivan handed the microphone to a Proud Boys member. According to Lex Scott, he told them that his group wanted to work with them, which led to other left-wing activists refusing to work with him. He later got his group firearms training. As he began carrying assault rifles to protest, this invited hostility from both the right and the left.
Others believe Sullivan exploited the racial justice movement for self-gain. Lex Scott said that Sullivan seemed to have "a death wish" as he thought it would be "cool, or amazing, if he was killed at a protest and it started a revolution". She has also denied Sullivan is a member of BLM-Utah and expressed suspicions of him seeking fame, adding he never attended any BLM meetings nor worked alongside them to advance their agenda. The Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke also stated that he had been selling merchandise and indulging in self-promotion on many websites: his Insurgence USA website sells protest-related gear, such as black clothing, gloves, and gas masks, branded "bloc gear collective".
During the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, Sullivan entered the building, with documentary filmmaker Jade Sacker, and took extensive video, including video of the death of Ashli Babbitt. Sullivan later spoke to police and FBI agents about the shooting. His involvement in the riots was cited by pro-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as part of an unfounded conspiracy theory alleging antifa's involvement in the riots.
After the Capitol storming, Sullivan said he is neither a BLM or Antifa member, nor with the pro-Trump crowd, though he supports Black Lives Matter. When asked about the usage of antifa hashtags in his social media posts, he rejected being associated with the group, but has stated that he along with his group is anti-fascist. He has also called himself a citizen journalist. Although claiming to be at the Capitol storming as a photojournalist, he filmed himself chanting "we about to burn this shit down" and "we accomplished this shit. We did this together. Fuck yeah! We are all a part of this history", "We gotta get this shit burned", and "It's our house, motherfuckers!" He also used a megaphone and shouted support. He claimed he only said and did these things to "blend in" with the pro-Trump mob.
On January 13, 2021, an arrest warrant with three counts related to the DC riot was signed by a magistrate judge. The affidavit was based on work by the Counterterrorism Section of the United States Department of Justice National Security Division and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The affidavit stated that Sullivan entered the Capitol's west side by climbing through a broken window. He later approached another window and a knocking noise is heard, after which it is broken. Sullivan stated, "I broke it. My bad, my apologies. Well they already broke a window, so you know, I didn't know I hit it that hard. No one got that on camera." One charge, "40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D)", is a specific crime of entering or remaining in the House of Congress without authorization. He also offered a knife to the protestors while they tried to break a window. In the video, he also asks the police to not obstruct the protestors as he doesn't want any harm to come to them. The arrest document also stated he had made a statement outside the Capitol about "burning this shit down" and "ripping Trump out of office", a speech he made in August 2020 while pointing to the White House.
Sullivan was arrested in Tooele County, Utah and appeared before a judge on January 15, 2021. He was released with strict pre-trial conditions. An FBI affidavit disputes the claim he was a photojournalist, as he had no press credentials.
- Dickinson, Tim (14 January 2021). "'I Don't Think She Deserved to Die': Black Activist Who Filmed Ashli Babbitt Shooting Speaks Out". Rolling Stone. https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/ashli-babbitt-shooting-video-jayden-x-maga-riot-interview-1112949/. "John Sullivan was arrested and charged on January 14th, according to the Department of Justice, with "one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and one count of interfering with law enforcement engaged in the lawful performance of their official duties incident to and during the commission of civil disorder." An FBI affidavit discounts Sullivan's claim to be a journalist ... John Sullivan, a.k.a. Jayden X, is a civil rights activist and crowdfunded video journalist ... Sullivan's profile is unique: The 26-year-old is a resident of Utah and a former competitive speed skater who participated in the 2018 Olympic trials."
- Mackey, Robert (14 January 2021). "John Sullivan, Who Filmed Shooting of Ashli Babbitt in Capitol, Detained on Federal Charges" (in en). https://theintercept.com/2021/01/14/341260/.
- Okoren, Nicolle (27 July 2020). "The birth of a militia: how an armed group polices Black Lives Matter protests" (in en). The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/27/utah-militia-armed-group-police-black-lives-matter-protests. "Sullivan, one of the few black men organizing for racial justice in Utah, is not from Provo but Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City."
- "Meet John: An Aspiring Speed Skater". Uber Blog. 4 August 2016. https://www.uber.com/blog/meet-john-an-aspiring-speed-skater/.
- "KSL Olympic News Coverage". KSL-TV. 7 January 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sVlizpVy9g.
- Eustachewich, Lia (15 January 2021). "Who is John Sullivan, accused provocateur charged in Capitol riot?". New York Post. https://nypost.com/2021/01/15/who-is-john-sullivan-accused-provocateur-charged-in-capitol-riot/. "The 26-year-old competed in the 2018 Olympic trials and appeared in a 2016 commercial for Uber that’s since been made private."
- "Find Your Hustle". Uber. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MByS99sQ4Vc&feature=emb_logo.
- Gehrke, Robert (16 January 2021). "What we know about John Sullivan, charged with rioting at the U.S. Capitol" (in en). https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2021/01/16/robert-gehrke-what-we/.
- "About Insurgence USA". https://www.insurgenceusa.com/about-insurgence-usa.html. Retrieved 2020-01-17.
- "Two more charged in Provo protest that turned violent". Deseret News. 13 July 2020. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/7/13/21323124/two-more-charged-in-provo-protest-that-turned-violent-police-brutality-counterprotest.
- "Organizer of Provo protest arrested, accused of rioting, making threats". Deseret News. 10 July 2020. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/7/10/21320220/organizer-of-provo-protest-arrested-accused-of-rioting-making-threats.
- "Man who shot video of fatal Capitol shooting is arrested, remains focus of political storm". Washington Post. 16 January 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/01/16/sullivan-video-arrested/.
- Bink, Addy (14 January 2021). "Utah activist who provided video of deadly D.C. riot to investigators arrested". KTVX. https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/utah-activist-who-provided-video-of-deadly-d-c-riot-to-investigators-arrested/. "The criminal complaint filed against Sullivan lists him as the “leader of an organization called Insurgence USA through which he organizes protests.” According to Sullivan’s website, Sullivan was in the U.S. Capitol in early January when rioters violently entered the building."
- Knox, Annie (4 August 2020). "Utahn charged with shooting at driver during Provo protest ordered to pay higher bail or return to jail". https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/8/4/21345073/racial-justice-protests-bail-raised-for-utahn-charged-with-shooting-at-suv-in-crowd-provo. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
- Roberts, Alyssa (3 July 2020). "Police: Man arrested for shooting at Provo protest is known". KUTV. https://kutv.com/news/local/police-man-arrested-for-shooting-at-provo-protest-is-known-instigator. "Some, including an organizer with Insurgence USA, indicated they believe the driver who was shot was trying to drive into protesters who were blocking the road. "After seeing the violence ... and everything that transpired that day, it came to my realization that this place needed it the most, because nowhere in Salt Lake City have I seen that just blatant hatred, people trying to run people over. Just disrespectful," John Sullivan told 2News."
- Reavy, Pat (10 July 2020). "Organizer of Provo protest arrested, accused of rioting, making threats". Deseret News. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/7/10/21320220/organizer-of-provo-protest-arrested-accused-of-rioting-making-threats.
- Richardson, Ryan. "Top Utah County stories (2): Provo protests inspire state legislation". Daily Herald (Utah). https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/top-utah-county-stories-2-provo-protests-inspire-state-legislation/article_c58ae168-b3c7-5624-9423-e7d72394fec4.html. "One of the organizers of the event, 25-year-old John Earle Sullivan of Sandy, was also taken into custody for his involvement in the unlawful assembly. The protest was considered unlawful because organizers had not received a permit for the event, according to arrest documents. Sullivan and his organization, Insurgence USA, reportedly promoted the event online and made social media postings that advocated for other protesters to join. Authorities alleged that Sullivan committed riotous acts as a protest organizer, and he was arrested under the suspicion of third-degree felony rioting, class A misdemeanor criminal mischief and class B misdemeanor threat of violence."
- Ewan Palmer (23 July 2020). "20 men with guns confront solo armed black protester at Utah Capitol". https://www.newsweek.com/utah-armed-protesters-capitol-uca-1519925. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
- Nicolle Okoren (27 July 2020). "The birth of a militia: how an armed group polices Black Lives Matter protests". http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/27/utah-militia-armed-group-police-black-lives-matter-protests. Retrieved 2021-01-15.
- Foulger, Matthew. "AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AND ARREST WARRANT". https://www.justice.gov/opa/page/file/1354781/download.
- "Video shows fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt in the Capitol". Washington Post via Seattle Times. 8 January 2021. https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/video-shows-fatal-shooting-of-ashli-babbitt-in-the-capitol/. "John Sullivan, a liberal activist who shoots video at a range of protests and who filmed the footage on Wednesday"
- Ruiz, Michael. "BLM activist inside Capitol claims he was 'documenting' riots". Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/anti-trump-activist-entered-capitol-wednesday. "Sullivan says he was standing near Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt when she was shot and killed in the Capitol, and video appears to show him on the scene."
- McCarthy, Bill (January 8, 2021). "Facebook posts wrongly claim left-wing activist, antifa 'incited' US Capitol mob". PolitiFact. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/jan/09/facebook-posts/facebook-posts-wrongly-claim-left-wing-activist-an/.
- Devine, Curt; de Puy Kamp, Majlie; Glover, Scott (16 January 2021). "Giuliani uses unfounded 'Antifa' argument to defend Trump". CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/15/politics/giuliani-unfounded-antifa-claim-invs/index.html.
- Donaldson, Amy; Glass, Brittany (7 January 2021). "Utah activist inside U.S. Capitol says woman killed was first to try and enter House chamber" (in en). https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/1/7/22219733/utah-activist-inside-u-s-capitol-says-woman-killed-was-first-to-try-and-enter-house-chamber-sullivan.
- "Utah Man Charged in Federal Court Following Events at the United States Capitol". justice.gov. 14 January 2021. https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/pr/utah-man-charged-federal-court-following-events-united-states-capitol.
- Matthew B. Foulger (13 January 2021). "AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF CRIMINAL COMPLAINT AND ARREST WARRANT". justice.gov. https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1354916/download.
- "Criminal complaint". justice.gov. https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/press-release/file/1354921/download.
- Isaac Hale (16 January 2021). "Man arrested during Provo protests back in custody related to Capitol breach". Daily Herald. https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/man-arrested-during-provo-protests-back-in-custody-related-to-capitol-breach/article_e8599d33-6679-5777-a106-2e398f6b3c52.html.
- Ariane Datil (16 January 2021). "Utah man who recorded nearly 2 hours of his participation in Capitol riots arrested". WUSA9. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/national/capitol-riots/john-sullivan-utah-man-arrested-capitol-insurrection-recorded-footage/65-441a6fb8-8132-4a75-b254-6193eeb9953c.
- Cox, Erin (14 January 2021). "Utah activist John Sullivan arrested for involvement in Capitol riot" (in en). https://www.fox13now.com/news/local-news/utah-activist-john-sullivan-arrested-for-involvement-in-capitol-riots.
- Ruiz, Michael (8 January 2021). "BLM activist inside Capitol claims he was 'documenting' riots, once said 'burn it all down'" (in en). https://www.foxnews.com/politics/anti-trump-activist-entered-capitol-wednesday.
- Dennis Romboy (15 January 2021). "Judge releases Utahn charged in U.S. Capitol riot despite objections". Deseret News. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/1/15/22234004/capitol-violence-john-sullivan-criminal-charges-utah-chaos-donald-trump-released-jail-riot.
- Reavy, Pat (January 14, 2021). "Salt Lake Valley man charged federally for alleged role in U.S. Capitol riot" (in en). Deseret News. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/1/14/22231783/salt-lake-valley-man-charged-federally-for-alleged-role-in-u-s-capitol-riot-insurrection-trump. "A Sandy man who participated in a pro-Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol that turned into a violent attack has been charged for his alleged involvement that day. John Earle Sullivan, 25, was charged federally on Wednesday with being on restricted property, civil disorder and “violent entry or disorderly conduct,” according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia."
- Foulger, Matthew B. (13 January 2021). UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JOHN EARLE SULLIVAN. https://www.scribd.com/document/490763513/Sullivan-Affidavit. "He has admitted that he has no press credentials and the investigation has not revealed any connection between SULLIVAN and any journalistic organizations.".