Insurrectionist says internalised transphobia and Alex Jones conspiracies led her down dark path

Mug shot of Jessica Watkins

A veteran involved in the US Capitol Riots has blamed conspiracy theories spread by Alex Jones for her radicalisation.

Jessica Watkins is a 38-year-old veteran from Ohio who at the time of the insurrection was a member of the far-right anti-government militia group The Oath Keepers.

She is one of five Oath Keepers on trial for their involvement in the Capitol riots, and on Wednesday (16 November) surprised the court by choosing to testify in her own defence.

Since her arrest, she has disavowed the group.

Watkins, who is trans, told jurors that she had struggled with her gender identity since she was young, but had kept her feelings secret in her strict, religious household.

After she was deployed to Afghanistan, while ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was still in effect, she said another soldier had borrowed her laptop and seen that she had looked up support groups for transgender people.

“He came into my room and slammed the door and put my laptop in front of me and screamed ‘I know what you are, f****t’,” she told the court, according to CNN.

“I panicked and went AWOL. I ran.”

She later received an “other than honourable” discharge, before being told by her parents “never to come home again”.

Watkins said she still struggles with her identity, and sometimes found herself using “disgusting” homophobic slurs as a way of “lashing out at others like I’ve been lashed out (at)”.

Watkins described her internalised transphobia to jurors, explaining: “Really ultimately I hate myself; I see myself in them… It’s not a like a flag you wave. ‘Look how cool’.

“For me, it’s just like painful… It’s embarrassing and honestly disgusting.”

Insurrectionist Jessica Watkins was watching conspiracy theory content for ‘five or six hours every day’

Jessica Watkins said she began looking at conspiracy theories online during COVID-19 lockdowns, when the bar she owned with her fiancée was suffering financially.

She said she believed the United Nations was planning to invade the US, and that it would “come in and go door to door” forcing vaccinations.

She put her beliefs down to a “steady diet” of Alex Jones’ conspiracy-ridden show Infowars, telling jurors: “I probably watched five or six hours every day… In hindsight, I feel like I was gullible.” 

Watkins said she got involved with The Oath Keepers in 2020, and added: “It kind of got in my blood … so I don’t know, I just couldn’t help myself… If I’m going to die for something, it probably should matter.” 

Jurors previously viewed footage of Watkins yelling “push” to rioters trying to get past police in a Capitol hallway, and saw messages sent by her about “military-style basic” training in preparation for Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“In my mind I thought it was this heroic American moment where I thought people were going into our house, we were going to be heard,” she said.

“It was this moment where I lost all basic objectivity. I wasn’t doing security anymore, I wasn’t medic Jess anymore. I was just another idiot.”

She added: “I want to say I’m sorry to you, but I’d rather say I’m sorry to Christopher Owens, the [Metropolitan Police Department] officer who was here.

“He was the one on the other side of it, protecting the Capitol from my dumb ass.”

Watkins faces six charges – seditious conspiracy, conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, entering and remaining in a restricted building, and tampering with documents. The sedition charge alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.