Josephine Yanasak-Leszczynski watched from Chicago in horror as insurgents stormed the nation’s Capitol last Wednesday in an effort to stop the certification of the election for Democrat Joe Biden.
She said she couldn’t sleep that night after watching violent white rioters who falsely believe Republican President Donald Trump won November’s election. Some carried Confederate flags or wore symbols of white supremacy.
“I woke up the next morning and I went on Facebook, and I went on these neighborhood groups that I’m a part of and people were posting callouts,” Yanasak-Leszczynski said.
The 30-year-old Albany Park resident decided she would help by identifying insurgents from Chicago. This is a similar tactic anti-racists used to identify white supremacists who marched in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one activist dead.
Yanasak-Leszczynski got to work finding videos and photos of Chicagoans participating in the failed attempted coup last week. She found the names, photos and businesses they owned or employer information and posted it on Twitter.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up,” Yanasak-Leszczynski said. “Within 15 minutes, it was basically going viral.”
She said tattoo artists from Insight Tattoo parlor in the Wicker Park neighborhood attended. WBEZ couldn’t reach them for comment but one of them, Mat Moreno told WBBM he attended the insurgence because they were “curious to see what would happen.”
Two employees associated with Tank Noodle in Edgewater were also accused on social media of traveling to the Capitol. A photo of the restaurant’s manager Thien Ly and another man went viral. The photo shows Ly posing with another man alongside an image of his United Airlines boarding pass and the caption reads, “Jan#6 Get Wild! #fightfortrump.” Ly told “The Today Show” he attended with the owners and they were unaware violence was going to happen.
Over in Logan Square, Jorge Rios, owner of Chicago’s Best Barbershop, was identified, too. Multiple photos of him standing outside the Capitol wearing a red Make America Great Again hat and hoodie were shared. He uploaded a video of himself walking after the insurgence. In the video, someone asked him if he stormed the Capitol. He answered laughing: “do you want me to tell on myself?” he answered laughing. Last week, Rios wrote a post on Facebook that began with: “Dear Cancel Culture, I practice my constitutional rights for all my beliefs.”
Rios declined to answer questions from WBEZ and quickly hung up.
Meanwhile, Yanasak-Leszczynski also found photos from a Chicago woman that made her particularly upset.
“Libby Andrews, the real estate agent’s caption comes to mind about her glass of champagne after storming the Capitol. That is very clear language of how they see this,” she said.
Andrews posted an online video where she eagerly explained what happened on Jan. 6: “Hi everyone, I was just at the capitol. I stormed the capitol and I made it to the top. I have pictures, she said. “It was actually a lot of fun.”
The Chicago woman can be seen in photos smiling in the crowds and talking with others during a Facebook live.
Soon after Andrews was outed last week, her employer @properties fired her.
“This former @properties agent, in her own words, and in images she posted to social media acknowledges “storming the capitol.” The agent’s public pronouncements are antithetical to @properties’ standards of conduct, and as a result, the company made the decision to sever ties,” said Peter Olesker, a spokesman for the company.
Gold Coast Executive offered Andrews a job offer last week, Crain’s reported, but the company did not answer multiple calls from WBEZ.
Yanasak-Leszczynski, who has volunteered to work as a medic for peaceful Black Lives Matter protests, said she feels it is important to hold the Capitol insurgents accountable. She said she doesn’t trust that law enforcement will arrest those responsible.
Even if people didn’t violently ransack the Capitol, activists say the event was not a political rally. It was a planned effort to stop the certification of Biden’s presidential election win. Some of the Trump mobs carried guns and incited violence.
So far only a few insurgents have been arrested.
Last week, federal prosecutors filed charges against Bradley Rukstales, a campaign contributor to President Donald Trump who lives in Inverness and was arrested at the Capitol on Wednesday. Rukstales was the chief executive of Cogensia, a Schaumburg-based marketing consulting firm but was fired soon after charges were filed. Rukstales told WBEZ he was “deeply regretful” for his role in the insurgence.
Other insurgents have been outed around the country. Both private and public companies have been firing some of those people including a lawyer from Texas, a Pennsylvania teacher was “temporarily relieved of his duties” and at least two Seattle police officers were placed on administrative leave until their role in the riot is investigated, CNN reported.
David Stovall, a professor of African American studies and criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said if those who attacked the Capitol last week were not white, “Constitution Avenue would have been turned into a graveyard.”
Stovall said the activists outing the Chicago insurgents on social media understand that the criminal system for white Americans is more lenient. The country, he added, has already seen those differences in the way police responded and the fact that only 14 people were arrested following the violent attack on Jan 6.
He urges Chicagoans not to fall into the narrative that what we saw last week is “not who we are.”
“This is exactly who the United States is,” Stovall said. “It is exactly who the United States has been. It was founded on slavery and genocide and wrongful land appropriation.”
Yanasak-Leszczynski said it is especially important to hold business owners and managers accountable because many employees rely on them for their livelihood. She said this is the first time she’s done something like this. She’s been supporting other activists because she says she wants to support Black activists.
She said she felt she needed to share this information using her own personal Twitter account. And since then she’s received death threats that are so severe she had to leave her apartment.
Yanasak-Leszczynski said she’s taking a break from social media but pledged to continue outing insurgents.
“I’m scared,” she said, adding that as a college-educated white woman she has resources to take care of herself.
“I’d rather have a target on my back than someone else, honestly. I’m in a better position. I’m privileged I had somewhere else to go so I’m grateful for that.”