The squalid January 6th cult known as “Freedom Corner” was the focus of The Cult of the January 6th Martyrs by Laura Jedeed in the New Republic.
It’s an excellent article that captures the essential weirdness of the nightly vigil outside the DC Jail. Jedeed describes how the group chants the names of imprisoned rioters and then the response “hero” like some apocalyptic church. Followed by the benediction:
“So let’s say her name,” the man says once he’s finished with the list. The crowd roars to life and chants in unison the name above the woman on their T-shirts, over and over: “Ashli Babbitt! Ashli Babbitt!”
She also highlights the false piety of the group, which claims to be interested in prison reform, but only for one group of prisoners: the J6ers. They want to see them freed but don’t care about the justice system, longing to install Trump as dictator-for-life.
I’ve been following the “Freedom Corner” cult for a while, for they are descendants of the earlier trucker convoy and 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM) cults.
Some context and an update.
“Freedom Corner” is in the 1900 block of E Street SE, where the street dead-ends against the DC Jail.
The whole block has bad energy, even during the day. The street slopes down from Capitol Hill, leaving you isolated with the looming jail on one side and the brick walls of Congressional Cemetery on the other. You feel both cut off from the nearby Capitol Hill neighborhood and under surveillance from the cameras located on the outside of the jail.
At night, it is even worse. The vigil starts at 7 PM. Police cars line the block as you approach, followed by the QAnon-covered vehicles of the J6ers, who drive in from the suburbs. Ahead is the corner, on the right-hand side of the street, bathed in the light of live-streaming YouTubers. Behind orange barriers, a dozen or so cultists wave flags and blare music next to posters of J6 “victims” like Ashli Babbitt and, outrageously, Brian Sicknick, who the J6ers killed.
Across the street, the occasional counterprotester with a bullhorn yells at them, as officers watch from their vehicles.
Despite having no permit, the J6ers on “Freedom Corner” believe that the street belongs to them. And I don’t blame them. A Metropolitan Police Department officer told a counterprotester that the J6ers “reserved” the corner.
You can’t reserve a corner in DC. They’re also violating the Safe Accommodations Act, which states that if you block the sidewalk, then you have to provide an ADA-compliant alternative for pedestrians. They also regularly trespass upon historic Congressional Cemetery, by putting flags and candles on its walls, and sneaking into the graveyard to piss.
Not to mention forcing the shutdown of the cemetery to film the worst rap music video in global history.
— Jane (@jam6242) March 2, 2023
Most nights, it’s more of a party than a demonstration. White ladies drink wine. There is a buffet. People dance and catch up with their insurrectionist friends.
It’s a Cult
If you join one cult, you’ll join another. That’s the surprising lesson from Cultish, an excellent book on why people give their lives to a cult. People looking for community and a sense of purpose gravitate toward cults.
“Freedom Corner” is a descendent of the earlier trucker convoy and 1776RM cults. The YouTubers who were members of those fascist cults migrated to “Freedom Corner” when their previous efforts collapsed.
Counterprotesters including Anarchy Princess and DOA followed them, making “Freedom Corner” like a spin-off of 1776RM, with the same characters and the same “insurrectionist losers” chants.
Also, the YouTubers who “cover” the corner are not journalists, despite wearing “press” badges that they purchased online. They are active participants in the movement, who provide material support for their fellow insurrectionists. If there is trouble with the police, they claim to be press, but once it dies down, they go back to yucking it up with their friends.
The YouTubers are making money off the plight of the J6 prisoners, collecting super chats and online donations from their tales of woe.
Money, Power and Sex
As I learned from following 1776RM, the truth is always more squalid than the high-minded ideals that cultists espouse in public. There is always a fight over money, power and sex.
One of the figures profiled in The Cult of the January 6th Martyrs is Randy Ireland, a NY Proud Boy who wrote a handbook on how to riot.
He’s been the emcee of the “Freedom Corner” vigils. The one with the microphone who takes calls from prisoners and even plays the guitar some nights.
Until he was gone. The vigil announced that he had gone off to work on another project.
Another vigil participant, Tommy Tatum, who directed rioters on January 6th and more recently harassed Capitol Police officers, accused Ireland of stealing from the cult:
How do you con a con? Everyone at “Freedom Corner” is grifting and trying to get their share while they can.
If the J6 vigil really cared about the prisoners, they wouldn’t broadcast their calls on YouTube, where they could incriminate themselves further.
But then they wouldn’t get super chats and big-figure donations. They wouldn’t get media exposure and be praised by Donald Trump. They would not be glamorous. Instead, they would just be ordinary people, without access to the money, power and sex that they get for being part of the J6 cult.
“Freedom Corner” is a con, a shallow and dingy copy of the long-running grift that Donald Trump has been running for years.