FBI: Capitol Riot Trail Leads to Small-Town Bar

Two residents are charged with planning the Jan. 6 attack
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 30, 2021 3:25 PM CST
Small Town Deals With Alleged Ties to Capitol Riot
A church in Woodstock last week.   (AP Photo/Farnoush Amiri)

In the don't blink-or-you'll-miss-it town of Woodstock, Ohio, population 300, dozens of residents still fly "Trump 2020" flags. But it's a now-shuttered bar that brought the FBI to town this month. Bedsheets and drapes cover the windows of the Jolly Roger Bar and Grill, except for a sliver where an "OPEN" sign flickers in red, white, and blue. It is here, federal authorities say, that Army veteran Jessica Watkins tended bar and recruited members for a local militia group her social media posts said she founded in 2019. She affiliated it with the Oath Keepers, an extremist, militaristic group believed to have thousands of members nationally, authorities say. In a criminal complaint filed Jan. 19 and a federal indictment Wednesday, Watkins and a member of her militia, ex-Marine Donovan Ray Crowl, are charged, along with a Virginia man, with helping to plan and coordinate the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. Both are jailed in Dayton now, the AP reports. "We have a good group," federal authorities say Watkins transmitted that day. "We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan."

A couple of blocks from the Jolly Roger, congregants at the Free Will Baptist Church are trying to wrap their heads around it, said Keith Pack, a church deacon. "Just shocked that it would be in the small town of Woodstock," he said Pack. Freddy Cruz, a Southern Poverty Law Center research analyst, agreed "it's shocking" that people from a place such as Woodstock would be tied to a bold insurrection. But it shouldn't be, he said. "I think the general media and the federal institutions have dropped the ball in taking these groups seriously," Cruz said. He said many anti-government groups have been active for years, carrying out military-like training for a second Civil War in apocalyptic fantasies fueled by conspiracy narratives. In November, Watkins sent a text to several people, encouraging them to participate in "a week-long basic Basic Training class," in early January, according to court records. "I need you fighting fit by innaugeration,” the 38-year-old told one interested member. Five days before the Capitol riot, Watkins ended a social media post with: "Guess I am going to pack for DC. See you there."

(Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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