Some users on pro-Trump internet forums told users to “lock and load,” agitated for civil war, and urged protesters to head to Mar-a-Lago in the hours after news broke that former President Donald Trump’s Florida compound was searched by the FBI on Monday.
According to previous research and online statements, one user posting about the “civil war” shortly after the search was Tyler Welsh Slaeker, a Washington man awaiting sentencing for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A December report by Advance Democracy, a nonpartisan investigative nonprofit, found that Slaeker posted to the pro-Trump internet forum Donald, under the username “bananaguard62.”
On Monday night, the username “bananaguard62,” posted the top reply to the “lock and load” post.
“Are we not in a cold civil war at this point?” the account asked. Another user responded, “several points ago.” Another top reply to Slaeker quoted a notorious antisemitic, Nazi rallying cry.
n the months before Jan. 6, Slaeker had posted selfies to his bananaguard62 account, and he would later appear in photos from the Capitol riot and arrest records. On Jan. 6, he uploaded a photo of himself watching Trump’s speech from a tree on the Ellipse. Metadata from that photo confirms it was taken by Slaeker, according to the Advance Democracy Report. NBC News has also seen the photo and its metadata.
In the minutes after news of the search broke, users on pro-Trump forums like TheDonald, a Reddit-like website that was used to provide logistics before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, urged immediate violence, asking questions like “When does the shooting start?” and calling upon Trump to summon militias.
The most popular comment responding to the news, upvoted over 1,200 times, was simply the words “lock and load.”
Later on in the night, Slaeker clarified in a reply that he could not be more specific about his civil war post.
“I am awaiting sentencing for trespassing into the Capitol,” he wrote. “I am only being careful with my words.”
Slaeker’s recent posts illustrate that some of the same people on extremist forums talking about “civil war” or angling for more violence have taken real-life action in the past.
“Prior to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, we saw unprecedented plans online to conduct real-world violence,” Daniel J. Jones, president of Advance Democracy and a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff member, said in a statement. “The online outrage was based on false allegations of voter fraud and bizarre theories of coordinated government corruption. The raid by the FBI has provoked similar violent rhetoric online— including from at least one individual charged in relation to the insurrection on January 6th.”