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Jailed Insurrectionist, who Identifies as Transgender, Fears For Safety, Seeks Release

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday February 23, 2021

Jessica Watkins
Jessica Watkins  (Source:Montgomery County Jail via AP)

Jessica Watkins, an Oath Keeper who took part on the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, wants to be released from custody because she is at "particular risk" from having been "treated harshly," Buzzfeed reports.

Watkins, a 38-year-old former Army ranger who served in Afghanistan, said her mistreatment is because she is transgender.

In the motion filed by her attorney, federal public defending Michelle Peterson, Watkins said she was left naked "in a cell with lights on 24 hours a day for 4 days in full view of everyone." According to the motion, this was a consequence of Watkins' attempted hunger strike to get medical treatment for an arm injury. She has been held in two facilities since her arrest. It is not clear where she is currently being held.

Watkins said she participated in the insurrection because "she believed that the president of the United States was calling upon her." Through her attorney, Watkins claims she poses no threat to the public — a particularly bold claim given that she participated in the January 6 sedition in full tactical gear.

Buzzfeed reports that in a Parler post, Watkins said "Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed, the whole 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historical Events we created today."

The outlets also points to court filings that claim Watkins was texting people as early as November 9 — only six days after the Presidential election — about Oath Keepers' basic training in Ohio. She allegedly wrote to one person, "I need you fighting fit by innaugeration [sic]."

Peterson argues that Watkins should be monitored by a GPS device from home because she has no criminal background or history of violence. While Peterson acknowledges that Watkins did indeed enter to Capitol, she "did not vandalize anything ... or engage in any destruction of property, and in fact, encouraged others not to vandalize." Peterson also alleges that Watkins followed police officers' orders and assisted in "medical rescue operations for injured people" during the raid on the Capitol. Watkins worked as a firefighter and EMT in North Carolina for several years.

When Watkins learned she was wanted for questioning, according to the filing, she "drove nearly eight hours to turn herself in to local police." Apparently, a warrant for her arrest had not been entered into the national system and authorities did not seem to be aware she was wanted. Peterson wrote in the filing, "Although misguided, she believed she was supporting the Constitution and her government by providing security services at the rally organized by Mr. Trump and the Republican lawmakers who supported his goals."

Last week, Thomas Caldwell — who is accused of coordinating the Capitol raid alongside Watkins — was denied a request for release by federal Judge Amit Mehta, who said Caldwell "represents not just a danger to the community but to the fabric of democracy."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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