A court motion – filed on the same day as Rittenhouse was acquitted – claims that Zachary Rehl travelled to Washington DC ahead of the Capitol riots to “defend vulnerable demonstrators against violent attacks from ANTIFA, not unlike what Kyle Rittenhouse did”.
Mr Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide charges on Friday after he fatally shot two men and injured another with an AR-15-style rifle on 25 August, 2020 during the third night of protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests erupted after a white Kenosha Police Department officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, leaving him paralysed.
Mr Rehl, a leader of a Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia, is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, entering restricted ground and disorderly conduct for allegedly participating in the attack on Congress fuelled by the baseless narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. He has pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorney Jonathon Moseley claimed that the Proud Boys “primarily came” to Washington DC on 6 January “to patrol the perimeter of the crowds and the places where crowds were gathered to defend vulnerable demonstrators against violent attacks from ANTIFA, not unlike what Kyle Rittenhouse did in [Kenosha], Wisconsin,” according to the motion filed on Friday.
The motion – first reported by NBC4 - claims that Proud Boys members were in DC to “make sure that the defenseless Trump supporters in the gun free zone of DC did not get jumped and stabbed by the rioters who had run amok all during 2020”.
Mr Rehl and other Proud Boys defendants have been accused of organising and fundraising for an attack on the Capitol, using encrypted platforms and handheld radios to coordinate their assault, and then storming the halls of Congress.
Nearly 700 people have been charged in federal cases stemming from the Capitol attack.
On 30 December, 2020, Mr Rehl allegedly posted a fundraising campaign to collect money called “Travel Expenses for Upcoming Patriot Events,” according to an indictment.
The FBI said the campaign raised $5,500 by 4 January, and that Mr Rehl was among 60 people using an encrypted messaging platform to organise their trip to Washington.
“I’m proud as f*** [for] what we accomplished yesterday, but we need to start planning for a Biden presidency,” Mr Rehl posted to an encrypted chat channel with other members on 7 January, according to court documents.
Mr Rittenhouse was acquitted of the five charges against him after his attorneys argued he fired his weapon in self-defense as he feared for his life.
In January this year, the teenager was photographed with alleged members of the Proud Boys inside a Wisconsin bar while wearing a “Free as F***” T-shirt.
In an emailed statement to The Independent, Mr Moseley said he has “included the theme generally in legal filings I filed for Zachary Rehl before that the Proud Boys are defensive in nature, and that their goal is to stand between violent attackers and conservative / patriotic demonstrators. But it was the first legal filing where I mentioned Rittenhouse.”
“To those in these groups, the connection has always been obvious,” he told The Independent. “They don’t see themselves as linking themselves to Kyle Rittenhouse. On the contrary, they see Kyle Rittenhouse as a citizen who did what the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers had already been doing for years earlier.”
He said that he has previously discussed the theme with Mr Rehl, with Mr Rittenhouse “as just one example of someone being persecuted for trying to stop the riots, looting, burning down minority-owned businesses, etc.”
“Zachary Rehl feels that he is similarly being persecuted for going to Washington DC to patrol the perimeters of the crowds watching for any attacks,” he added. “The prosecutors admit that Zachary Rehl did not engage in any violence (including against police) or damage any property on January 6. Rehl is being accused (in vague terms) of encouraging others to do so. But the prosecutors -portray Rehl as a ‘leader’ which he rejects.”