Gay #WalkAway Founder Pleads Guilty for Role in January 6 Riot

Out gay #WalkAway founder Brandon Straka pleaded guilty for his role on January 6 at the US Capitol.
Wikimedia Commons/Jared Holt

An out gay Trump supporter and founder of an organization that urged Democrats to leave that party and join the Republican Party has pleaded guilty to a single count of disorderly conduct for joining the mob of Christian nationalists, neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, and other right wing groups that rioted at the US Capitol building on January 6.

Brandon Straka agreed to plead guilty to one count of “Engaging in Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in the Capitol Building or Grounds” in August, according to US Department of Justice records. The deal was made public on October 6. Straka, 44, faces up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine when he is sentenced on December 17. He must also pay $500 for his portion of the nearly $1.5 million in damage the rioters caused to the US Capitol building.

Straka, who declined to comment for this story, became a darling of the far right in 2018 when he released a video announcing that he was leaving the Democratic Party. As the founder of the #WalkAway Campaign, he would go on to make appearances on right wing news outlets, at conservative conferences, and at Trump campaign rallies.

On his Facebook page on October 9, Straka wrote, “As we get closer to a resolution and close the book on this most recent chapter, a new one begins. With that our new boots on the ground movement will begin under the label of the #WalkAway Campaign Super PAC. In order to defeat big-tech censorship and drown out the noise of the radical left, we need numbers on the ground. We intend on creating the largest grassroots movement this country has ever seen, and to do that we need your support in signing up.”

Straka was not the committed Democrat that he claimed to be in his speeches and appearances. His voting record in New York City shows that between 2004 and 2018, he voted in general elections five times and in a primary race just once. In New York, Democrats hold an advantage among registered voters and the primaries often decide the winner in the general election.

Following Trump’s defeat in November 2020, Straka attended at least one rally in Michigan and he spoke at a January 5 #StoptheSteal Coalition rally in Washington, DC.

“Patriots! Welcome to the revolution!” Straka said at the Washington, DC rally. “That’s right ladies and gentlemen, we have before us a revolution.”

He went on to decry complacency among Americans on the right, telling the audience that too many had not heeded his warnings about the election. Nothing in his speech indicates that he was exhorting his audience to be violent then or the next day.

“And people still became complacent,” he said. “It has taken us getting this close to losing Donald Trump to wake up the beast in the American people. Make some noise. Keep this fire alive, today, the next day when you go home from Washington, DC, and every day going forward until we stop the steal and until we drain the swamp in Washington, DC and get back to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The next day, Straka recorded a video of himself on the Capitol building steps in the middle of the rioting. The Capitol grounds and the building were closed to the public that day. Straka is among the more than 600 people who have been charged with misdemeanors or felonies for entering the grounds or the building. There is no evidence that Straka ever went inside the building or joined in the violence.

Videos made that day show the rioters attacking police. Some rioters brought guns, knives, clubs, baseball bats, and other weapons to the US Capitol building. One police officer, Brian Sicknick, died from natural causes following the rioting and another four police officers who fought the rioters died of suicide.

In 2019, Straka booked space at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan for a #WalkAway Campaign event. Following a community outcry, The Center canceled the event and Straka sued charging The Center had discriminated against him and co-presenters. That lawsuit was dismissed.

While Straka has avoided serious consequences for his actions on January 6, he faces the possibility of further economic penalties. Seven Capitol police officers have sued Trump, the Trump campaign, and other organizations and individuals, including Straka, charging the defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 federal law that was intended to dismantle the Klan and other racist groups, and other laws during the January 6 rioting. At least five of the officers are Black.

“Defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was designed to prevent precisely the kinds of politically and racially motivated violence they caused and committed on January 6,” the complaint in that lawsuit charges. “Defendants also committed bias-motivated acts of terrorism and other torts in violation of District of Columbia law.”

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