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UPDATE: Facebook Removes Long Island MAGA Group Following Capitol Riots

U.S. Captiol
J. Scott Applewhite

Facebook deleted the page for a Long Island group of President Trump supporters responsible for large MAGA car caravans and pro-law enforcement rallies on Thursday after the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. At least five people have been reported dead after the siege, including a Capitol police officer.

The Setauket Patriots sent four bus loads of Long Island Trump supporters to D.C. on Wednesday for Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally, where the President told supporters to go to the Capitol. A violent mob of insurrectionists stormed the building. Capitol Police ushered federal lawmakers, donned in gas masks to avoid tear gas used, to secure locations.

The Setauket Patriots had posted on Facebook images shared of the storming of the Capitol, saying “We were here.” Those posts are taken down.

The attack ultimately failed. Congress ratified the electoral college votes early Thursday morning, after 139 Republican representatives and eight senators objected to the certification of votes that confirmed Democrat Joe Biden as president.

Facebook removed the Setauket Patriots account, around the same time that the social media giant banned Trump’s account “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday.

The pro-Trump group is still active in a private Facebook group, "The Setauket Patiots", and on Parler, an alternative social media platform popular with high-profile members of the far-right. Upon joining, the group asks "what's shared in the group should stay in the group."

The FBI has launched a manhunt for all Capitol Hill rioters using their social media posts. As of Friday, police arrested at least 80 insurrectionists. None of the reported arrests have been tied to Long Island. Thousands of messages flooded the FBI in response to their investigation seeking information related to the violent attack.

The Setauket Patriots had boasted thousands of followers but was down to 2,000 since the page became private a few months ago. The self-proclaimed leader is James Robistek, an ex-NYPD officer. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Other pro-Trump groups from Long Island had posted prior to the event about their plans to travel to D.C. on Wednesday, including Long Island Loud Majority, which has about 20,000 total members, and Stay Loud Long Island, with 17,000 members. However, the names of these organizations continue to change as Facebook bans certain groups for posting hate speech and false information.

Long Island civil rights leaders and Black Live Matters activists on Long Island say they saw a double standard in how pro-Trump extremists were treated, compared to protests over police violence against people of color last summer.

“Everyone has a right for a peaceful protest. This was not protesting,” Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director for the NAACP, said in a statement on Facebook. “For anyone to think that if these individuals were people of color, that this would have been the same result, they are kidding themselves.”

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.