‘Stop the Steal’ Founder ‘in Hiding’
A one-time denizen of Blogger's Row at CPAC has come a long way.
When hundreds of people, most not bothering to conceal their faces, stormed the Capitol Wednesday, many have had the bizarre experience of seeing someone they’ve worked with, served with, or even dated suddenly become Internet famous. It turns out that I’ve met one of the organizers.
The Daily Beast‘s Will Sommer (“‘Stop the Steal’ Organizer in Hiding After Denying Blame for Riot“):
Two weeks before thousands of Trump rioters breached Congress, “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander said his group wasn’t violent—“yet.”
“One of our organizers in one state said, ‘We’re nice patriots, we don’t throw bricks,'” Alexander told a crowd at a Dec. 19 rally at Arizona’s state capitol. “I leaned over and I said, ‘Not yet. Not yet!’ Haven’t you read about a little tar-and-feathering? Those were second-degree burns!”
Alexander, who has described himself as one of the “official originators” of the Jan. 6 rally in Washington, went on to use “yet” as a code word for violence. Then Alexander told the Phoenix crowd about his plans for Washington.
“We’re going to convince them to not certify the vote on January 6 by marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of patriots, to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down, right?” Alexander said. “And if we have to explore options after that…’yet.’ Yet!”
Alexander’s supporters cheered, yelling threats like “noose!” and “nothing’s off the table!”
Alexander led a host of activists in ratcheting up the rhetoric ahead of Congress’ certification of the electoral votes, threatening to “1776” opponents of Trump’s re-election. Now that five people, including a Capitol Police officer, are dead, however, Alexander has gone into hiding, and the website promoting his Jan. 6 rally has been wiped from the internet.
Alexander is defiant, saying he won’t “take an iota of blame that does not belong to me.”
“I didn’t incite anything,” Alexander said in a video posted Friday to Twitter. “I didn’t do anything.”
In reality, even as Alexander claimed his supporters were peaceful, he repeatedly raised the prospect of using violence in the weeks ahead of Jan. 6.
On Sunday night, Twitter banned Alexander’s personal account and an account for “Stop The Steal.” Alexander didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Time will tell whether Alexander can be proven to have engaged in a conspiracy to commit sedition or was merely a grifting rabble-rouser talking shit with reckless disregard for the consequences. As I understand the law, the latter, while reprehensible, falls short of direct incitement of violence and is therefore protected under the First Amendment.
But I’ve met Ali, then going by the nom de blog “Ali A. Akbar,” at CPAC at more than one occasion. We’re even friends on Facebook, although its algorithms haven’t sent me his content in years and I don’t recall the last time we interacted.
Regardless, even though I was rolling my eyes at and then viscerally turned off by CPAC well before I stopped voting Republican, Ali didn’t stand out as particularly strident. Or, frankly, all that interesting. He seemed fairly earnest, albeit likely capitalizing on being a person of color and maybe a Muslim who was a conservative Republican.
I was, of course, aware of the “Stop the Steal” campaign. But I had no idea Ali was the organizer.
Nor of his shady past:
Alexander is a convicted felon, after pleading guilty to felony property theft in 2007 and felony credit card abuse in 2008. Alexander first appeared in conservative politics in the Tea Party era under the name “Ali Akbar,” organizing a group called the National Bloggers’ Club that was tied to “shady data collection operations.”
Regardless, he’s come a long way:
In the Trump era, now using a new name, Alexander emerged as an idiosyncratic, trash-talking MAGA die-hard affiliated with figures like InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim Trump booster Laura Loomer, blundering provocateur Jacob Wohl, and Trump ally Roger Stone.
Before Trump’s 2020 election defeat, Alexander was perhaps best known for Donald Trump Jr. retweeting his groundless claim that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is not an “American Black.” He was invited to the White House for Trump’s “Social Media Summit” with various right-wing internet figures, and began frequently wearing orange clothes, claiming God had given him a message that the color had special significance for 2020.
“God gave me the color orange in December 2019,” Alexander tweeted on Election Day. “He told me ‘orange would be the color of 2020.’ I’ve come to learn it means GOD’S POWER.”
After Trump’s election defeat, Alexander positioned himself as one of the leading Trump re-election dead-enders with his “Stop the Steal” group, which quickly became a clearinghouse for pro-Trump personalities rallying outside of state capitols in contested battleground states.
Alexander also started to promote mega-rallies protesting the election results in Washington in November and December, even clashing with rival organizers over who deserved credit for the events. And he began organizing a protest outside the Capitol for Jan. 6, dubbing it the “Wild Protest” after a Trump tweet promising the protests during the electoral vote count “will be wild.”
Interestingly, though, Sommer may have buried his lede:
For Jan. 6, Alexander claimed in a video, he had some organizing assistance from pro-Trump Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Mo Brooks (R-AL).
“We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in a video posted before the Jan. 6 protest.
Gosar and Brooks didn’t respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Biggs disputed Alexander’s story, claiming Biggs isn’t “aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point” and had no “contact with protestors or rioters.”
Again, it’s entirely possible that this is all part of a grift to make him seem like a bigger deal than his is. But, if it’s actually true that three Republican Members of Congress were part of the planning for a rally that was organized with violent intent, they’re in a world of hurt.
Alexander’s voice grew more menacing in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally. He tweeted that he would “give my life for this fight,” a call that was promoted by the Arizona Republican Party.
Alexander also began tweeting frequently about “1776,” a reference to the start of the American Revolution. Alexander wrote in one post that the choice was “45”—Trump’s re-election—“or 1776.” In another message, he wrote that “1776 is always an option for free men and women.”
Most pointedly, Alexander responded to a tweet from QAnon-supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) claiming that top congressional leaders were working to block objections to the electoral vote. If that happened, Alexander said, he and hundreds of thousands of other protesters would “1776” the Capitol.
“If they do this, everyone can guess what me and 500,000 others will do to that building,” Alexander tweeted on Dec. 30. “1776 is always an option”
Alexander’s anger wasn’t limited to Congress. After four people were stabbed after a December MAGA protest outside the Hotel Harrington, a downtown Washington hotel popular with Proud Boys, the hotel announced that it would be closed for several days around the Jan. 6 protest.
A furious Alexander posted a video filled with threats to the hotel, urging his fans to “be extremely high IQ as God enacts his vengeance.” Alexander compared his supporters to the snake in the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag, saying they had been “tread on” and noting that “the vipers bite.”
“May not one patriot get caught on camera doing anything bad,” Alexander said.
At the Dec. 19 Arizona rally, Alexander kept up his threat that his movement could become violent. He said he wouldn’t describe Democrats as burglars in Republicans’ homes, implying that would mean they’d be shot—a metaphor he said wasn’t necessary “yet.”
“Let them hear that,” Alexander said. “‘Yet.'”
The night before the Jan. 6 rally, Alexander riled up Trump supporters in Washington with a “victory or death” chant and once again brought up “1776.”
“1776 is always an option,” Alexander told the crowd. “These degenerates in the deep state are going to give us what we want, or we are going to shut this country down.”
Alexander’s “Wild Protest” rally was scheduled to take place on the northeast corner of the Capitol’s lawn, with a website claiming that Greene, Gosar, and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) would all speak at the event. Before the rally, Alexander attended Trump’s speech on the White House Ellipse, posting a picture from the front row.
“Nice seats,” Alexander tweeted. “Thank you @realdonaldtrump!”
Alex Jones claims that he and Alexander had some “deal” with the White House about their protest outside of Congress.
“We had a legitimate deal with the White House,” Jones said in an InfoWars show filmed after the riot with Alexander. “‘Hey Jones and Ali,’ literally, they let us out early, we were supposed to lead a peaceful deal.”
Video posted by InfoWars in an apparent attempt to distance Jones from the riots shows Jones and Alexander on the west side of the Capitol as tear-gas canisters went off in the distance and Trump supporters mounted MAGA flags on the inauguration risers. Jones unsuccessfully tried to convince rioters to move to the east side of the Capitol and attend their rally on the other side of the building instead.
“As much as I love seeing the Trump flags flying over this, we need to not have the confrontation with the police, they’re going to make that the story,” Jones said.
But Alexander refused to disavow the riot.
“I don’t disavow this,” Alexander said in a video filmed overlooking the Capitol. “I do not denounce this. This is completely peaceful, looks like, so far.”
Again, I don’t think aggressive shitposting on Twitter is evidence of a criminal conspiracy. But it certainly doesn’t look good. And it seems more than plausible that Trump was well aware of all of this.
Finally, we get to the headline piece:
Now Alexander claims to be in hiding, alleging in a video posted Friday that he needs $2,000 a day to fund his security detail and other expenses and hitting his fans up for donations. In a bizarre moment in his fundraising pitch, Alexander claimed that he was being targeted by the supernatural: “Witches and wiccans are putting hexes and curses on us.”
It’s not clear how, however, if Alexander’s supporters can send him money at all. On Saturday, he posted on Parler that he had been banned from Venmo and PayPal.
Whether he’s actually “in hiding” or this is just another grift is unknowable.
In his Friday video, Alexander claimed that his “rally never turned violent.” But Alexander also read a quote from talk radio host Rush Limbaugh that positively compared the rioters to the heroes of the American Revolution, and said rioters who entered the Capitol should suffer light consequences, if any.
“I think people should be rowdy, I think people should be messy,” Alexander said. “I do believe that we own that U.S. Capitol. So I’m not apologizing for nothing.”
His understanding of property rights is, alas, not in alignment with the law.
And, of course, the American Revolution (or, more accurately, the War for American Independence) was high treason against the king. It required winning the war for that to not matter.