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Charlottesville tiki torch marcher charged in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

A South Carolina man who recently completed a jail sentence for marching with a tiki torch during the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, has been charged by federal authorities with taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Tyler B. Dykes, 25, was charged in February with illegally intimidating the public during the Charlottesville demonstration and served six months behind bars, according to state court records. After his release from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail this week, he was arrested by the FBI on more than a half-dozen charges related to the Capitol riot, federal court records show.

Dykes, of Bluffton, S.C., was among several accused right-wing extremists indicted by a Virginia grand jury in February on charges of burning torches to intimidate the public at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The cases were initiated by the current elected prosecutor in Albemarle County. His predecessor had declined to bring charges against torch carriers.

As authorities tell it in court papers, Dykes is a common thread between the racist march in Charlottesville, which riveted the country’s attention on emboldened white supremacists during Donald Trump’s presidency, and the riotous attack on the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters who tried to stop Congress from confirming Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race.

After his arrest on the Jan. 6 riot-related charges — including engaging in physical violence with a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds — Dykes made his initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke, and he was ordered held pending a detention hearing Wednesday. He did not enter pleas. The federal public defender’s office in Roanoke, which is representing him, declined to comment.

An FBI affidavit filed in court to obtain an arrest warrant for Dykes says a tipster alerted investigators that Dykes, back home in South Carolina after the riot, had boasted of taking part in the Jan. 6 incursion. Agents examined numerous photos taken that day and identified him as being in and near the Capitol, according to the affidavit.

Dykes is accused of tearing down a barrier outside the Capitol and joining a mob that forced open the Columbus Doors on the building’s East Front. He then roamed the halls carrying a riot shield that he had stolen from a police officer, the affidavit says.

As for the Charlottesville rally, more than five years went by before authorities took legal action against several men, including Dykes, who had carried burning tiki torches around the University of Virginia campus on Aug. 11, 2017, in a march of white supremacists chanting, “You will not replace us,” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and soil.”

They were prosecuted by Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley (D) under a law enacted partly in response to the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses in public to intimidate Black people. Hingeley’s predecessor, Robert N. Tracci (R), who was commonwealth’s attorney at the time of the rally, declined to seek those charges against the torch carriers, saying he did not think the statute could be applied to them.

After being indicted in February, Dykes pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but six months suspended.

On Aug. 12, 2017, the day after the tiki torch parade, right-wing extremists and opponents clashed on the streets of Charlottesville, and an avowed neo-Nazi, James A. Fields Jr., rammed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others. Fields was sentenced to life in prison.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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