Rioters Used Walkie-Talkie App Zello To Communicate While Storming The Capitol

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Colby McCoy Contributor
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  • The walkie-talkie app was used by pro-Trump rioters to plan and storm the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, according to The Guardian.
  • A rioter who used the app has been identified as 38-year old Jessica Watkins, leader of the Ohio State Regular Militia, audio and chat logs show. 
  • Zello has announced sweeping bans of extremist groups, removing more than 2,000 channels off the platform. 

Rioters reportedly used walkie-talkie app Zello to communicate before and during the storming of the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, according to audio and chat logs obtained by the Guardian.

In a public Zello channel called “STOP THE STEAL J6”, pro-Trump rioters communicated in real-time as they stormed the Capitol. One female rioter proclaimed the building had been breached, saying, “We are rocking it. They’re throwing grenades, they’re frickin’ shooting people with paintballs, but we’re in here,” the Guardian reported.

“Jess, do your s***,” a male voice replied. “This is what we f****** lived up for. Everything we f****** trained for.”

Zello is popular with far-right militias looking to emulate military communications on an analog radio network, the Guardian said. The platform allows users to make communication channels public or private with a passcode.

The Guardian claims to have identified the female rioter to be 38-year-old Ohio bartender Jessica Watkins, an Army veteran, who openly admitted to the Ohio Capitol Journal she had participated in the Capitol riot as a leader for the Ohio State Regular Militia which she founded in 2019.

Moments leading up to the riot Watkins’ voice could be heard over the app’s airwaves declaring “We have a good group: 30 to 40 of us. We’re sticking together and sticking to the plan” while walking towards to the Capitol, The Guardian reported.

Records indicate the app acted as a hotbed for ginning up extremist ideas leading up to the Capitol riots, the Guardian said. Far-right groups utilized the application to set up a series of rendezvous points in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Massachusetts through a channel called “The MAGA Cavalry”.

An unknown member of The MAGA Cavalry channel participated in the Capitol breach, The Guardian reported. “I was there, inside for a bit there, someone broke into the door and opened it,” the anonymous person known as “Q” said.

In response to the carnage at the Capitol, Zello received a list of 800 far-right groups on the platform and was called upon to remove them immediately, as they are violating the app’s policies which prohibit users from espousing “violent ideologies.”  Zello told The Guardian it was “prepared to take action on those” 800 groups.

Two hours after the Guardian’s report went live Zello announced another round of bans, deleting 2,000 “channels associated with militias and other militarized social movements,” the Guardian reported. (RELATED: ‘I Can’t Go Home Tonight’: Parler CEO John Matze Says He’s Getting Death Threats)

In a tweet referring to a blog post on the ban, Zello said “We’re deeply disturbed by last week’s abhorrent actions against our democracy. Ahead of the inauguration, we have deleted numerous militia-related channels from our platform to diminish any risk of further violence.”

Zello continues to walk a fine line as other platforms continue to be attacked by big tech companies and political adversaries for allegedly inciting violence, such as Parler, a Twitter-esque alternative banned from the Google Play and Apple stores, reported the Daily Caller.

Parler’s death became reality after Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it would no longer be hosting the application, forcing it to find another provider in a largely monopolized web hosting marketplace.  As a result Parler has filed a lawsuit against Amazon for breach of contract and violating antitrust laws. (RELATED: Epik In Talks With Parler After The Social Media Company Registers Its Domain)

Zello is also hosted by AWS and could face backlash as Parler has for allowing extremists to communicate on its platform.

Zello did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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