Woman Accused of Stealing Nancy Pelosi’s Laptop Appears in Video Making Nazi Salute
On January 6, 2021, Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old home care worker from Pennsylvania, was one of roughly 800 rioters who breached the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. While many engaged in property damage and violence that day, Williams’ case stands out given her ex-partner has alleged to the FBI that she stole a laptop from Nancy Pelosi’s office.
This former boyfriend also alleges that her goal was to sell the laptop to a Russian intelligence agency, a claim January court documents say “remains under investigation,” but which has been denied by Williams’ lawyer who accuses the former partner of seeking revenge.
While Williams has not been charged with stealing the laptop itself, something she also denies, she faces multiple charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds as well aiding/abetting others to “embezzle, steal, purloin.”
Footage from January 6 released by ITV News shows Williams urging rioters upstairs towards Congressional offices. In one video from inside Pelosi’s office, a voice that the FBI states it believes to be Williams’ says “dude, put on gloves” before a gloved hand takes a laptop from a table. The affidavit links to a thread of captured Discord posts from a user named Riley bragging, “STOLE SHITT FROM NANCY POLESI [sic]”.
In an interview with ITV on January 16, Williams’ mother described her daughter as getting caught up in the moment. She noted that Riley had been radicalized on far-right message boards but described her daughter’s main political goal as, “…wanting America to get the correct information”.
However, Bellingcat has since received information that suggests that Williams was more than just a Trump supporter caught up in the maelstrom. She is somebody who posted racist and Anti-Semitic content as well as filmed a video that appears openly pro-Nazi and promotes accelerationism (speeding up the collapse of society) as a pathway towards establishing a genocidal white supremacist state.
Several days after Williams was charged in mid-January, an antifascist activist reached out to Bellingcat with a video they believed showed her pledging allegiance to Adolf Hitler. Bellingcat has since shared the footage and findings of its investigation with NBC News.
The 36-second video opens with a young woman dancing in a dress while wearing a hat, glasses and a mask decorated with a skull. These skullmasks were adopted as a symbol by Atomwaffen and similar accelerationist Nazi terrorist groups back in 2017.
Editors note: The audio has been removed from this video at the request of the copyright owner of the background music that featured in the original clip.
Her hat features a Sonnenrad, or Black Sun, an occult Nazi symbol also popular with Atomwaffen. Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant wore a Sonnenrad patch on his body armor while massacring 51 people on New Zealand’s South Island in 2019.
The video also features a book on the Waffen SS at the woman’s feet.
She dances to techno music for several seconds, while a voice narrates the video: “Hammer was right all along. There is no political solution. All that is left is acceleration. Heil Hitler.”
At this point in the video the bass in the music drops and the woman extends her arm in a Sieg Heil salute. A negative color filter washes over the scene and the woman’s eyes glow.
This effect is a clear example of the ‘fashwave’ aesthetic, which gained prominence due to Atomwaffen’s distinctive propaganda. Fashwave is extremely popular among Nazis and other white supremacists on Telegram.
Since the person in the “Heil Hitler” video does not display their face, confirming their identity will be a complex process. To do so, we will need to determine whether or not Riley Williams expressed views in line with Nazi and racist ideology.
Since we cannot do a match on facial features alone, we will also need to see if we can connect any of the objects or clothing in the video to Williams. But first, we should evaluate the online context in which the video was posted.
The antifascist researcher who found this footage said they came across it in November of 2020 while browsing through neo-Nazi telegram channels. They told us: “The video caught my eye both because accelerationist networks are predominantly male and the combination of the message and editing has shock value. I downloaded it and forgot about it until I saw a photo emerge of Riley Williams wearing a skull mask following the Capitol riot.”
The researcher is uncertain of where, precisely, the video was posted given the time that has passed. But the voice-over in the video would appear to give a clue. The woman narrating states, “Hammer was right all along.” The Hammer is a moderately popular accelerationist Nazi telegram channel, with 6,780 subscribers as of publication. Its messaging is not subtle.
The individual behind this channel has been identified by anti-fascist researchers as Christopher Pohlhaus, of San Antonio, Texas. His tattoos were matched to his name from photos posted on Telegram. Pohlhaus sells neo-Nazi merchandise, particularly banners which are used in “banner drops” on overpasses. In addition to spreading genocidal propaganda on his Telegram channel, Pohlhaus poses frequently with his weapons. He is often seen wearing a skullmask and a Sonnenrad.
Pohlhaus also sells the distinctive sunglasses featured in the above image, and worn by the woman in the video.
It is worth noting that Williams herself has a history of taking similar photos and posting them on social media, as ITV found in their investigation.
Bellingcat found additional posts of her posing in a skullmask on social media.
This, of course, does not yet prove that Williams was the woman in the video we were sent. To do that, we’re going to have to go a little bit deeper.
Riley Williams on Social Media
Williams seems to have operated accounts on both Twitter and Parler under slight variations of the same name, “@whitepillgroypr” and “@whitepillgroyper”. “White pill” is likely a riff on “red pill” / “black pill” discourse among the far right, its probable meaning is accepting white identitarian politics. At one point Williams’ Twitter display name, before her account was deleted but not before researchers captured some of its content, was a reference to several Bible verses from the Book of Matthew.
On Parler, the near identical handle features an avatar of a woman wearing a skullmask and carrying a gun that bears a strong similarity to images of Williams, such as that depicted by ITV.
“Groyper” is the name adopted by fans of Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and far-right personality who was present outside of the Capitol on January 6.
On Twitter, Williams expressed an intense admiration for Fuentes alongside a devotion to former President Donald Trump and Infowars founder Alex Jones.
While Williams shared and expressed support for a wide variety of right-wing influencers, Fuentes appeared to be her favorite. At one point she changed her Twitter display name to “AF” for America First, the name of Fuentes’ streaming show. In this thread, she defends Fuentes from allegations that he soiled his pants while running a mile in high school. (These allegations are the result of a viral joke meant to denigrate Fuentes.)
On Twitter, Williams was open about her white nationalist beliefs. Here she chastises a fellow America First fan for “promoting race mixing.”
And here she replies to a critical tweet featuring an image of a 1939 gathering by the German-American Bund, a U.S.-based prewar Nazi organization. Williams asks if the picture is “based?”, a slang term appropriated by the alt-right to mean “good”, more or less.
Williams also showed a willingness to use anti-semitic slurs, as we see in the below comment.
Williams’ Twitter feed shows that she was at least receptive to racist ideology. It is also provided yet more clues as to who it was that appeared in the video.
On December 12, 2020, Riley Williams attended a right-wing rally in Washington D.C. She was one of thousands of Trump supporters who flooded the city that day. Clashes that evening would result in four stabbings. During the day, there were speeches, including one speech by Nick Fuentes. Williams was there, and she snagged this photo with Fuentes. This photo makes it clear that Williams was behind the @whitepillgroypr account.
The same antifascist researcher who provided the “Heil Hitler” video also sent a photograph (below) they claimed was Williams. This photograph had been obtained from an individual who spent time in the same online spaces as Williams and was familiar with her digital presence. While we cannot immediately confirm that the person in this image is Riley Williams just by looking at it, there is a striking similarity to the person in the video.
Her dress is identical, in pattern and in cut. Although, you can see the bow that hangs around her neck in the above picture has been untied for the video.
The subject of the video appears to be wearing sunglasses, and we have come across no photos of Riley Williams in those same glasses. However, in the photograph provided to us, the person detailed wears different glasses with a distinctively shaped purple frame.
Williams wears what appear to be the same glasses in the photo she took with Fuentes (it’s also worth noting that her bangs fall in exactly the same way).
Those same glasses are visible in footage from January 6 in the Capitol.
Her glasses can also clearly be seen in her mugshot.
As it stands, the above information makes a compelling case for Riley Williams being the woman in the ”Heil Hitler” video. But for the sake of due diligence, we decided further verification was necessary. A path to this was found in the FBI affidavit against Williams, which cites a number of Discord posts that appear to have been made by Williams and captured by a Twitter user with the handle “@jannypilled”. (The January 6 affidavits include a number of moments where irreverent Twitter culture intersects with federal law enforcement.)
The Discord content (warning, this link contains explicit images of nudity and graphic depictions of self-harm) includes posts from a user named Riley stating “I STOLE SHITT [sic]” from Nancy Pelosi, as well as photos of Williams. The FBI affidavit details that Williams ex-boyfriend states she frequently uses this platform. The avatar of the owner of the Discord channel appears also near identical to Williams’ profile image on her now deleted Instagram account (detailed in the image above where Williams can be seen in a clothes store wearing a skullmask).
Several of the Discord photos are pornographic. Others detail messages sent by an individual, who Williams appears to have been in contact with, self-harming. We reference these only to show how we sought further verification that Williams was indeed the individual in the video and have attempted to only show what is necessary to detail how we made the identification.
One photo posted on the Twitter thread cited by the FBI shows Riley Williams’ face clearly visible. In another, the word “BERSERKR” (referring to a user in the Discord channel) is written in marker on a woman’s chest. A tattoo is visible under the right arm.
This tattoo is visible in another video posted on Discord and posted online. In this video, a woman is sitting on a bed, next to a desk with a computer monitor and a fast food beverage on it. A flatscreen television is mounted on the wall behind her.
Williams’ face is not visible in that video, but it is clearly visible in a photo taken in the exact same position and detailed in the thread linked to in the FBI affidavit. The same cup is even present.
Thus, we can now confidently match that tattoo to Riley Williams.
The same tattoo is present in a photo (partly censored due to its nature below) Bellingcat received from a source present on the Discord channel where Williams shared the skullmask and dress photo depicted earlier. The same tattoo is visible in this (censored) photo.
This photo, enlarged and detailed on the top right of the composite image below, allows us to definitively link Riley Williams to the “Heil Hitler” video. In the top left corner of the enlarged photo, we see a distinctive blue lamp. This lamp is also visible in the reflection on a mirror to Williams right in her Nazi salute video, as shown in the images below.
Piecing it all Together
To recap this extensive detail, Willaims tattoos, visible in the captured discord images and videos where her face is clearly shown, allow us to place her in the same room that the “Heil Hitler” video was filmed. This is on top of the earlier multiple, corroborating details around her skullmask, glasses, dress and bangs, as well as the information she posted on a variety of social channels.
Williams appears to have spent time interacting in some of the most extreme spaces online and subsequently posted content of herself making a Sieg Heil salute.
She referenced accelerationism and “The Hammer,” a neo-Nazi figure who advocates his followers partake in things like banner drops and spraying graffiti to spread their message.
Williams also wore a Groyper shirt on January 6, visible under her jacket in video and still images she appeared in, emphasizing her white nationalist tendencies.
Above all else, and given what happened around the storming of the Capitol building, this story perhaps offers more evidence that the hateful beliefs nurtured in digital communities don’t always stay just digital.
Bellingcat reached out to the defense attorney representing Riley Williams about the details of this story but did not receive a response before publication.
NBC News spoke to Williams’ lawyer, A.J. Kramer, who would neither confirm, nor deny it was his client in the video before stating the video was meant as a “joke,” although he initially wouldn’t elaborate on who made it or who it was meant for.
Kramer later followed up in an email to NBC News stating that the video was an “ironic internet joke about and against people called Wignats, who are like national socialists and who are like Nazis.” The video, he added, was meant to mock such people and is opposed to their beliefs.
The term Wignat was popularized by Andrew Anglin, editor of Nazi website ‘The Daily Stormer’, and Nick Fuentes. It is a term used mainly by Nazis and white nationalists to denigrate other Nazis and white nationalists. It is worth noting that, in order to film the “Heil Hitler” video, Riley Williams appears to have purchased sunglasses from ‘The Hammer’, supporting a fairly obscure Nazi accelerationist with her money.