John Sullivan, videographer and founder of “a group for racial justice and police reform,” posted a video on YouTube on Jan. 7 that shows him entering the Capitol building in Washington with a group of Trump supporters and possibly others on the previous day. He’s heard on video encouraging others and convincing Capitol police to let the trespassers through at several impasses. The video also reveals further details about the situation that led to the death of Ashley Babbitt, an Air Force veteran shot inside the building by Capitol Police.
Sullivan is known for taking part in protests and riots connected with the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded by Marxist organizers.
In July, he was arrested in Utah for alleged rioting, making a threat of violence, and criminal mischief due to his part in a protest that resulted in the shooting of a motorist.
“As a protest organizer, John Sullivan is heard talking about seeing the shooting, looking at the gun, and seeing smoke coming from it. John did not condemn the attempted murder nor attempt to stop it nor aide in its investigation by police,” the police affidavit said, Desert News reported.
“An armed revolution is the only way to bring about change effectively,” he said in a Dec. 28 tweet.
On Jan. 2, Sullivan wrote in a tweet: “[Expletive] The System – Time To Burn It All Down. #blm #antifa #burn #[expletive]thesystem #abolishcapitalism #abolishthepolice #acab #[expletive]trump.”
Sullivan also uses the moniker “Jayden X” online and is the founder of “Insurgence USA,” which describes itself as started “in 2020 in response to the George Floyd tragedy,” referring to the Minnesota man who died after ingesting a potentially lethal amount of Fentanyl and was then pinned down during an arrest with a police officer kneeling on his neck.
The aim of Insurgence USA is “to empower and uplift black and indigenous voices” and “build local powers to enable the community to intervene in violence enacted by the state and government vigilantes,” the description of its YouTube channel says.
In his graphic video from the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, Sullivan can be heard saying “let’s burn this [expletive] down,” before entering the building and later encouraging the trespassers to continue pushing forward.
In response to criticism on Twitter, Sullivan responded by saying he was there only to report and his actions were “part of blending in, so I don’t get beat up.”
He told The Epoch Times he needed to take extra steps to blend in because he was recording and because he’s “known in the activism community” as being part of the anarcho-communist movement Antifa.
“I’m not Antifa. There’s no organization that is Antifa,” he said in a phone call. Antifa indeed appears to lack centralized leadership. It is organized, though, through individual cells that communicate with each other, share tactics and strategies, and coordinate certain activities. Antifa-like tactics have been used during the storming of the Capitol, but no known Antifa adherents have been identified.
Sullivan’s video also shows he was actively helping convince Capitol police officers to let the trespassers through.
He told The Epoch Times he was trying to look out for the officers “for their safety first and foremost” as he saw other officers getting hurt earlier when the crowd clashed with police.
Shortly after entering the building through a broken window, Sullivan heads down a corridor, but then turns around and walks toward an entrance next to the broken window. A woman holding a camera enters the door and walks toward him. He doesn’t talk to her, turns around, and heads down the corridor again. He will talk to the woman later.
There appeared to be hundreds of people inside, wandering around.
Near the end of the corridor, Sullivan makes a right into another corridor. Several police officers on both sides are moving people along, preventing them from taking another turn. At the end of the corridor, there’s another entrance and several officers ushering people out.
When Sullivan reaches the door, he refuses to leave.
“I’m just recording the situation,” he tells one officer.
“You’ve got to do it from outside. C’mon guys,” the officer says.
The woman is seen keeping close to Sullivan.
“They are already inside, bro. Like, you’re not stopping anything from happening,” he tells the police.
The officers successfully get several more people out and seem to secure the door.
Sullivan manages to stay inside, arguing he can’t go out through this entrance because it’s blocked. The officers try to hold him and a small group of others near the door from going back deeper inside the building, but at one moment people just stream through to the corridor, Sullivan with them.
The group then rejoins the larger crowd inside, weaving their way through the building until reaching the majestic Capitol rotunda, a favorite tourist attraction lined with statues and paintings.
Sullivan sounds ecstatic about the experience.
“I never would have imagined that we would be here,” he says, talking to another man.
The woman then turns to Sullivan saying, “Let me give you a hug now. We did it. You were right. We did it.”
“Dude, I was trying to tell you. I couldn’t say much,” he replies.
He told The Epoch Times he was referring to plans for storming the Capitol he saw on “undergrounds chats and things like that.” He posted information about the plans on his social media, but didn’t inform the law enforcement. “I’m not a snitch,” he said.
There seems to be a short interruption in the video several seconds later.
The woman then says, “You aren’t recording, right?”
“I’ll delete that [expletive] up,” he replies. “But I didn’t record you I mean.”
He then enters another chamber.
“Do not deface the statues,” somebody says.
“I can respect the stat—well, people might burn this down, I’m not going to lie. So it might be too late for that,” he replies.
Shortly after, Sullivan and a group of other trespassers reaches the glass-pane door to the Speaker’s Lobby. The narrow corridor is barricaded from the other side with furniture.
Three police officers are standing in front of the door, guarding it. Some people shout at the officers. Jayden starts to talk to them.
“We want you to go home. I’m a reporter and there’s so many people. It’s just, they’re going to push their way up here. Bro, I’ve seen people out there get hurt. I don’t want to see you get hurt. We will make a path death [expletive] … Please, let us make a path. Just let us make a path. I want you to go home.”
The officers then walk away.
“Go. Go. Let’s go. Get this [expletive],” Sullivan shouts.
Three rioters proceed to break the door’s window panes with kicks, a flag pole, and a helmet.
“Yo! There’s a gun! There’s a gun! There’s a gun!” Sullivan shouts, his video showing a plainclothes police officer with his gun drawn in a door frame to the left on the other side of the glass-pane door. He’s aiming at the door.
“Hey, he’s got a gun!” somebody else shouts.
The rioters continue for a few more seconds, knocking two of the window panes out.
A graphic video taken by another person on the scene shows the first three officers leaving while four more officers with helmets and rifles stand by, just several feet from the door, one of them talking to a man in a black suit with a pin in the lapel.
A young woman climbs into one of the empty window frames. Her name is Ashli Babbitt.
The officer on the other side of the door fires a single shot, striking her in the neck.
She falls on her back.
One of the officers in helmets aims his rifle at the door. It appears he’s not sure who’s on the other side and who fired the shot. He quickly lowers the rifle and gestures. It appears he’s realized the shooter was a fellow officer.
The officers and some others try to help the woman.
“She’s dead. She’s dead,” Sullivan repeats.
Babbitt was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.
Update: The article has been updated with a response from John Sullivan. The headline has been edited to reflect that Sullivan described himself as “very apolitical” and “very neutral.”