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Local Proud Boys leader, other Tennesseans among U.S. Capitol protesters

Matthew Walter tweet.jpg
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 16:29:16-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A day after a riot at the U.S. Capitol, there are new questions about the role some Tennesseans played in the assault on democracy.

Among the people there: the local head of the Proud Boys, a far-right group sometimes known for its violent street clashes.

Matthew Walter insisted he walked away when the protest began spiraling out of control.

"I hope and pray that they make extreme examples of those people so no one will ever attempt it again in my lifetime because it was disgusting what happened," Walter told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Trump supporters from across the country had converged upon the U.S. Capitol at the urging of the President himself.

A TikTok video recorded by one of the protesters, and widely shared on social media, shows Capitol police being absolutely overwhelmed by the mob.

Among that mob was a Knoxville woman interviewed by a Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker.

"What happened to you?" Walker asked in a video shared on his Twitter account.

"I got maced," replied the woman who identified herself as "Elizabeth" from Knoxville.

Walker asked, "What did you want to go in?"

"We're storming the Capitol," Elizabeth replied. "It's a revolution."

Special attention has also focused on the rioters who invaded the Senate chamber.

A photo widely shared on social media shows an armed person carrying zip ties like those used for handcuffs, raising concerns about his intentions.

On the person's chest plate: what appears to be a Tennessee patch with the thin blue line used to show support for police.

Proud Boys leader Matthew Walter insisted, "I have no idea who that is. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt it was not a Proud Boy. I can tell you that."

Walter describes himself as the head of the chapter for Middle Tennessee and a friend of national leader Enrique Tarrio.

On the day of the assault on the Capitol, Tarrio shared a photo cowering in fear, adding: "When the government fears the people, there is liberty."

"I don't condone what happened at all," said Walter, a U.S. Army veteran. "I spent four years in combat for this country."

But Walter had tweeted, "I sat inside the people's building today."

"It was a joke," he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. "I was never inside the Capitol."

Walter also tweeted a photo of himself among the crowd outside the Capitol, adding: "The people have spoken."

He also found delight in the quote: "Make politicians afraid again."

"I actually quoted somebody that said 'make politicians afraid again.' I did not say that," Walter said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, "But you did not condemn it."

"I think I condemned it the second I was there. I don't remember seeing you there. But, when I was there, I was the one dispersing the crowd. I was the one getting people to calm down. I don't remember seeing you there condemning it."

Walter insisted that his chapter of the Proud Boys has not engaged in violent clashes, even if his social media accounts do sometimes include talk about "war."

As for that invader in the Senate chambers with the Tennessee patch, NewsChannel 5 continues to investigate, as does the FBI.