When an Australian flag was spotted amongst the Trump-supporting mob that violently stormed the US Capitol and clashed with police, some Aussies were left scratching their heads.
Why would the blue Australian flag with the Union Jack and Southern Cross constellation be flown with the hundreds of alt-right rioters?
The Trump supporters also clutched Make America Great Again flags and the Confederate flag as they breached legislative chambers on Wednesday local time in an effort to derail the joint congressional session where the 2020 election results were to be formally certified.
Twitter users posted snaps of NBC News footage and pointed out the lone Australian flag.
Experts said it’s not entirely surprising to see as some Australians have shown support for Trump and his presidency, notably in specific libertarian movements suspicious of government overreach.
“The coalition of online groups planning an Australia-wide action ‘Day of Freedom’ on September 5 was very Trumpian in inspiration: anti-masks, against stay at home orders, fearful of a suppression of liberties and warning of stage five lockdowns,” Dr Binoy Kampmark, Senior Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT told HuffPost Australia.
“These groups also, in part, believe in the 5G conspiracy and, in some cases, the Deep State theory that Trump is actually fighting operatives keen to suppress revelations of child abuse rings at the highest levels of government - the so-called QAnon group.”
In regards to the national flag in the crowd of extremists in Washington DC, Kampmark suggested the person holding the flag may simply be a fellow sympathiser, showing solidarity against measures that have been taken in their country.
The blue Australian flag is hardly unique to patriotic appropriation, Kampmark said.
He added: “It has been used politically by right wing movements, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, and is easily grafted onto more extreme nationalist movements which fear immigration and racial supplanting.
“This dovetails with the rise of cells of neo-nazi groups in Australia fearful of being displaced by non-white groups.”
As rioters in Washington DC clashed with law enforcement officials and broke windows, scaled walls and pushed through barricades, the Capitol office building went into lockdown and members of Congress were evacuated.
Four people are dead. At least one was shot dead, though the circumstances of the shooting are unclear. DC police said three others died due to “medical emergencies”.
Trump shared a video message on Twitter late in the afternoon in which he asked protesters to “go home in peace”, though erroneously repeated the election was stolen from him.
“We love you,” he told the rioters in the clip, adding, “You’re very special”. Earlier in the day Trump told his supporters at a rally on the National Mall that President-elect Joe Biden stole his victory.
After removing several posts from Trump, Twitter has since locked his account for 12 hours due to repeated and severe violations of its policies. Future violations, it said, could result in the account’s permanent suspension. Facebook and Instagram have reportedly blocked the president for 24 hours.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the riots as “very distressing scenes”, while the country’s Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urged Trump to “call on his supporters to stand down”.
With additional files from Alicia Vrajlal.