The picture of the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021 has been kicking around the internet for a year and a half. Taking center stage is anti-vaccine activist Simone Gold, founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, a group that has been spreading misinformation about Covid for the past two years. She is dating John Strand, an international lingerie model and the spokesman for the Doctors’ Group. They face an angry mob that has just broken down the door to the rotunda, where a US Capitol policeman is trying to stop them. A hand reaches up, grabs the policeman by the collar and pulls him to the ground. Gold and Strand push by and swarm into the Capitol with the other rioters.
As the crowd began to make their way into the Capitol building, Dr. Simone Gold and John Strand part of the crowd that violently pushed/pulled an officer down the stairs.
(@Autre_Vierge) January 12, 2021
The image was striking for many reasons, but primarily because Gold, a board-certified emergency medical technician and Stanford-trained attorney, did nothing to help the fallen officer. Others in the mob eventually help him to his feet, but only after he’s lost consciousness. Since the incident, Officer Joshua Pollitt has remained largely anonymous, but on Wednesday he appeared in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to testify in Strand’s trial regarding criminal charges related to the Capitol storming.
His emotional testimony was harrowing, as was all of the episode’s video footage played to the jury. During the riot, Pollitt was with a group of officers guarding the East Capitol rotunda, which is rarely open to the public. On the witness stand, he described being struck in the eye by a rioter during the confrontation, where he and his colleagues were heavily outnumbered. The jury watched video of rioters chanting, “Stop, let’s get in,” while Pollitt tried to keep the doors closed. At one point, smoke billowed out and Pollitt explained that officers had used a flash to try and fend off the angry mob. it had little effect.
Gold and Strand led this angry mob, who pinned Pollitt against the door and pressed his hands to his sides. “I was pushed against the door,” he said, explaining that he passed out and fell to the ground. “I was afraid that one of the rioters would take my gun and use it on one of my colleagues.”
Since their arrest less than two weeks after the riot, Gold and Strand have attempted to portray themselves as free speech campaigners, claiming they were merely protesting peacefully when they entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. But what the fallen Capitol police officer was describing was far from peaceful, and the video footage backed him up. Prosecutors pointed to the presence of men in Kevlar tactical gear with military-grade gas masks. “In your experience, do people usually wear Kevlar in the Capitol?” Prosecutor Jason Manning questioned US Capitol Police Sergeant Nelson Vargas during his testimony. “It’s not allowed,” he replied.
Given overwhelming documentary evidence of her involvement in the riots, not to mention her acknowledgment of the Washington Post Shortly after the event of her being in the building, Gold quickly pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor for illegally entering and staying in a restricted area of the US Capitol. In June she was sentenced to 60 days in prison. Earlier this month, she was released early for good behavior. As she emerged from the prison gate, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) presented her with an American flag that had hung over the Capitol that she had helped loot.
Strand declined the same plea, opting for the trial, which began this week before Judge Christopher Cooper, one of Gold’s Stanford classmates. Strand has embraced his status as a minor insurgent celebrity in conservative religious circles. On Sept 12, He gave an interview on YouTube to Brandon Straka, founder of the conservative Walk Away campaign. Strand babbled at length about what he’d been doing at the Capitol (and solicited donations), in a way that should make his attorney cringe. Straka was also prosecuted, although he never entered the building. He pleaded guilty to a single charge of disorderly conduct and received no jail time for helping the government with its investigation. (Prosecutors accidentally released his cooperation agreement, which listed everyone he spied to get a reduced sentence — including Gold.)
Strand is the first insurgent “influencer” to face trial and is arguably the most fashionable and immaculately groomed January 6 defendant. His signature undercut hairstyle, with the top carefully gelled into a cockscomb, leather jacket, and aviator sunglasses set him apart from the crowd of old bearded white men, fellow MAGA maniacs, the QAnon Shaman, and the Cammo-clad Militia. It’s one of the reasons he’s so easy to spot in the videos, and one reason, one police officer said, people remembered him. On Wednesday, he wore a thin plaid suit over a purple shirt, with loafers and no socks in court, and has refused to wear a mask as required. Instead, he takes a daily Covid test and presents the results to the court. Lawyers have continued to argue in front of Cooper about whether Strand can call Gold as a witness and what she might say. She was not in the courtroom on Wednesday, although her adult son Jonah Gold was one of the few who appeared to offer moral support to Strand.
Strand’s lawyer made little defense during cross-examination, while the government showed hours of video footage documenting his presence among the Jan. 6 rioters. Here’s Strand with Gold standing in front of a Confederate flag on the Rotunda door while her fellow protesters use Trump flagpoles like battering rams to shatter the glass. Here he is again, deep inside the Capitol, in a cloud of fire extinguisher haze being spread by an angry mob attempting to force open the chamber door of the house. And here Strand films Gold giving a speech in Statuary Hall about the government’s lack of transparency in the election. Meanwhile, officers who had spent the past two hours battling rioters and receiving pepper spray and assaults were attempting to evict the remaining rioters from the building as Gold drew a crowd.
here is dr Simone Gold giving an impromptu speech inside the building #DCRIOTS
Her partner John Strand steps back and films the irregular display.
“(Inaudible) educated lawyer! I’m mom!”
(@Autre_Vierge) January 10, 2021
By going to court, Strand stands far ahead a harsher sentence than he would have received had he accepted the government’s offer and pleaded guilty to a single crime like gold. Instead, Strand is now on trial on five separate charges and has said he could face a quarter of a century in prison if convicted on all charges. He is expected to testify in his own defense on Thursday, where he will argue that he was simply in the Capitol to provide security for gold. His attorney said his defense will rely primarily on character witnesses. Closing arguments are expected on Friday when the case is referred to the jury for deliberation.