A self-described member of the far-left network Antifa was arrested for allegedly participating in the destruction of one statue in Washington and an attempt to tear down another.
Jason Charter faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of destruction of federal property.
Authorities said in a court filing that Charter was part of the mob that tried tearing down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson near the White House on June 22.
Surveillance video shows Charter entering Lafayette Park that day wearing a distinctive armband on his right arm, ski goggles, a white N95-style mask, a black T-shirt, brown shorts, and sporting a backpack with a SwissGear logo. A bicycle helmet was dangling from the backpack and Charter was using a walking cane.
Footage from later in the night showed Charter grabbing ropes attached to the Jackson statue and adjusting them. He was then boosted onto the statue and appears to request more ropes from people still on the ground; a yellow tow strap is handed to him and he unwrapped it before handing it to another person, who attached it to the statue. Charter was handed another packaged rope, which he unwrapped and attached to the statue.
Charter “is plainly visible” in the footage carrying the same backpack, walking cane, armband, and helmet, according to the filing. His face was clearly visible at different times during the incident.
Charter was well-known to local police officers. One has had numerous interactions with Charter after meeting the militant during a protest in Washington last year. Charter called the officer multiple times to discuss the ongoing protests.
The self-described Antifa militant was also implicated in the toppling of the Albert Pike statue in Washington overnight on June 20. Video footage shows Charter pouring liquid over the statue and appearing to set fire to it. He later lit a cigarette in the flames.
Charter posted a picture that day on social media of the Pike statue on the ground, writing: “Tearing down statues of traitors to the nation is a service to this nation not a crime.”
Estimated damages inflicted on the statue and its pedestal came to $250,000 while repairs to the Jackson statue are estimated at $78,000, with a fuller account not yet completed.
Charter is also believed to have assaulted Jack Posobiec, a reporter with One America News, at a protest in Lincoln Park on June 26.
Antifa is an anarcho-communist group that openly supports violence. Members adhere to a definition of self-defense that includes hitting people first if those individuals are perceived to be enemies.
The group despises conservatives. Militants in the past have assaulted journalists, police officers, and minorities.
Charter says on social media that he is part of Antifa. He has shared some of the beliefs he says the group holds and an article outlining the tactics of Antifa’s black bloc, a group of mostly males that dresses in all black, with faces obscured with masks and sunglasses, and gangs up on people.
“Antifacism is an ideology and I identify myself as an antifacism [sic], as someone who is against facism,” Charter said in an interview in April.
Charter has also expressed animus against Republican President Donald Trump, calling him a facist.
After his arrest, Charter said on social media that he’s innocent.
The fact that Trump “is tweeting at and prosecuting a crippled 25 year old activist shows how desperate his is to creates false narratives,” he added, asking people to donate to his legal defense.
Four others were arrested last week for allegedly participating in the attempts to tear down the Jackson statue.
Michael Sherwin, U.S. attorney for District of Columbia, said late Thursday that over 150 people have been charged on the federal level for property destruction and other crimes carried out during recent riots.
A slew of others were charged on lower levels in investigations that were often assisted by federal agents, he said during an appearance on Fox News’ “Carlson Tonight.”
The destruction of federal monuments is “very disturbing,” Sherwin said, adding: “There’s a process and people can’t unilaterally decide what is right and what is wrong.”
“And if those people do make that decision on their own and take the law in their own hands, the law will come after them and the United States will use federal resources to charge you,” he added.
Sherwin declined to get into which groups the people carrying out the crimes are affiliated with. Some of them, he said, are loosely affiliated with extremist groups, both on the left and on the right.
The bulk of those accused were “self-radicalized, or lone wolfs that self-identity with these groups,” he said. “That’s not saying that there’s not an overall command and control, but we have not identified that full architecture yet.”