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The man who became known as the ‘QAnon Shaman’, Jacob Chansley, has pleaded guilty today to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding. He has also asked, through his lawyer, that everyone stop referring to him as the QAnon Shaman. “Mr Chansley, a long-avowed and practicing Shaman, has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him and requests future references to him be devoid of use of the letter ‘Q’,” his attorney Albert Watkins said before Friday’s hearing, later referring to his client as “non-violent, peaceful and possessed of genuine mental health issues”.
It may disappoint some people to hear that Chansley has disavowed such an inarguably funny nickname, but there are plenty out there — the Yellowstone Wolf, for instance, which has been mentioned before by kinder supporters than the ones who named him the QAnon Shaman; or the Star-Spangled Spanner, perhaps, or the Antlered Anti-Masker, or any number of other ridiculous puns circulating on the internet right now. There’s also Jake Angeli, which is the name he calls himself.
Whatever you want to call him, Chansley has become the subject of huge public fascination ever since he was pictured storming the US Capitol on January 6th. Wearing a horned fur hat, American flag face-paint and no shirt, he was photographed wandering the halls of the most hallowed building in Washington DC, his face twisted into a roar. “We will remove them from office, one way or another,” he said on camera about the Democratic politicians he was apparently seeking out, before entering the building with fellow rioters. He quickly became the face of the storming of the Capitol.
Chansley’s own lawyer is a character in his own right, with his own strong views on people like Chansley. “A lot of these defendants… they’re all f**king short-bus people,” Watkins said to Talking Points Memo in a past interview. “These are people with brain damage… But they’re our brothers, our sisters, our neighbors, our coworkers—they’re part of our country. These aren’t bad people, they don’t have prior criminal history. F**k, they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since f**king Hitler.” If Republicans thought Hillary Clinton calling Trump supporters “deplorables” was bad, then wait ’til they hear about this guy. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
The line of Watkin’s client’s defense seems to have been: everyone here became temporarily insane due to the words of Donald Trump, and now they shouldn’t be held responsible for anything they did in his name. Of course, Watkins might need to read into what happened to the German people who took in the “goddamn propaganda” of “f**king Hitler” then pleaded that they were just following orders. It’s historically not a very successful get-out-of-jail-free card.
Chansley’s fellow rioters haven’t gotten off very easily after becoming brief media stars, either. Florida crane operator Paul Hodgkins, pictured wandering the same halls as Chansley and walking round the Senate wearing a “TRUMP 2020” T-shirt and carrying a Trump flag, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison and two years of supervised release in July. He said that he was “truly remorseful and regretful” for his part in the riot, and that it was a “foolish decision” that “hurt” the “country I love”.
Robert Palmer, who was pictured on the Capitol steps spraying police officers with a fire extinguisher and then throwing it at them, is pleading guilty to a felony offense of assaulting an officer and faces five years in prison; his attorney said he is “apologetic”.
Arkansas resident Richard Barnett, who was photographed in Nancy Pelosi’s office during the riot, had a meltdown in court while crying, “It’s not fair,” when he was told he must stay in pre-trial detention and await sentencing. But maybe he got confused about what the American flag actually stands for while attempting to overthrow a democratic election. Welcome to justice for all, Mr Barnett. You’re probably gonna hate it.