Deceptively edited US Capitol attack footage refuels FBI conspiracy theories

Social media users are claiming a video shows federal agents distributing weapons to the mob of Donald Trump supporters that breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. This is false; a longer version of the clip shows one rioter passing the clubs to others through a broken window before getting them back -- and there is no evidence government agencies instigated the attack aimed at overturning the 2020 election.

"Here's Some January 6th Footage The Jan 6 Committee & Media Would NEVER EVER Show You," says an August 15, 2023 post on X,  formerly known as Twitter.

"Censored video showing WEAPONS being handed out from INSIDE the Capitol. It was a Deep State FEDsurrection."

The post comes from an anonymous account called "Wall Street Apes," which has previously spread misinformation.

<span>Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter, taken September 14, 2023</span>
Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter, taken September 14, 2023

The slow-motion, closely cropped clip appears to show people inside the Capitol passing wooden sticks to the crowd storming the building. The posts sharing it play into long-debunked conspiracy theories pinning the violence on undercover federal agents or Antifa, a loose coalition of anti-fascist activists commonly blamed for unrest.

Versions of the same video have circulated since supporters of former president Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress's certification of Joe Biden's electoral victory.

"NEW VIDEO: Antifa Hands Out Weapons from Bag During Storming of US Capitol," said the Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that has promoted other election misinformation, in a headline published three days after the attack.

But there is "still no evidence of Antifa or instigation by federal agents," said Keven Ruby, senior research associate at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which has analyzed more than 1,060 riot-related cases (archived here).

The clip shared online has also been deceptively edited.

A longer, archived version of the video shows an unidentified rioter outside the Capitol passing the clubs through a broken window before attempting to crawl inside. He then gets them back after he is unable to squeeze through the space.

AFP could not independently verify the origin of the footage, which appears to have first circulated on TikTok before being deleted.

AFP received a link to the archived version from an X user who identifies as a member of the Sedition Hunters, a community of volunteer open-source investigators who have mined footage and social media posts related to the Capitol attack and provided tips to law enforcement. The sleuths have played a role in hundreds of cases, according to US media.

Video shows rioters

The woman in the footage handling the weapons from inside the Capitol -- identifiable by her Louis Vuitton sweater and gloves -- is Gina Bisignano of Beverly Hills, California (archived here).

Bisignano pleaded guilty in August 2021 to multiple charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds (archived here and here). She has since tried to withdraw part of her agreement.

Numerous other videos from social media platforms and news organizations show Bisignano standing on a ledge outside the Capitol window, riling up rioters with a bullhorn and climbing inside. Additional footage shows her interacting with the crowd from inside (archived here).

Court filings also indicate other rioters -- not federal agents -- smashed the window in question (archived here, here and here).

Neither AFP nor Ruby's University of Chicago research team could identify by name the other individuals who passed the weapons through the window in the clip shared online.

Scott Miller, who faces charges in connection with January 6, punches the glass toward the end of the video. He is recognizable for his ski goggles, tan coat and backpack, according to charging documents (archived here).

AFP contacted Bisignano through an attorney and a publicly available email address, but no response was forthcoming. The FBI declined to comment.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Capitol attack here, here and here.

September 18, 2023 This article was refiled to add punctuation at the end of the second sentence.