Jerome Film Festival founders said they didn’t know about Jan. 6 violence. New video says otherwise.

By: - April 13, 2021 8:15 am

Jason Ryan and Toni Ross in a picture that Ryan posted on social media on Jan. 6, 2021, hours before video captured the pair on the U.S. Capitol grounds after rioters broke into the building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

The Jerome Film Festival is facing calls for boycotts after its founder and her fiancé attended the “Stop the Steal” rally and marched to the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, and newly discovered video casts doubt on their protestations that they were unaware of the day’s violence.

“I saw groups fighting with cops,” Toni Ross told AZFamily three days after the deadly insurrection attempt about what she and Jason Ryan, her fiancé, saw on their hotel TV. “I looked down below, and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the Capitol.”

But video footage the Arizona Mirror discovered of Ryan and Ross, who founded the Jerome Film Festival, suggests they knew more about the day’s violence than they told the television station.

“Are we in the Capitol?” someone says to a man holding a megaphone standing in front of Ross and Ryan. 

“Yes, the Capitol is ours and it has been for a while,” the unidentified man replies. “They are not using tear gas, they are not using rubber bullets right now. They were earlier. Right now, they are not.” 

The footage shows Ross and Ryan wearing the same clothes they were wearing in the selfie Ryan posted on social media the day of the riot, which garnered the backlash and led to people calling for a boycott of the Jerome Film Festival. The festival has created a GoFundMe and Ross and Ryan have said they’ve received death threats and have been “under attack” for their attendance.

The video was taken on the lawn area near the west steps of the Capitol at 3:25 p.m., roughly two and a half hours after protesters had breached the outer barriers of the Capitol grounds. The first rioter would break into the Capitol at around 2:12 p.m.

Additionally, comments made by Ryan on his Facebook page contradict their own statements made to AzFamily. 

“We had not even arrived at the Capitol yet and we saw smoke rising up,” Ryan said in a reply to a comment on his page. “When we got there, we heard that people were being shot with rubber bullets, tear gas/pepper spray was being deployed, and one woman got shot in the neck.” 

The couple said they were unaware of the violence until they got to their hotel in the AzFamily interview. On Facebook, Ryan said they got some footage of the Capitol then left, only to see the footage of the violence at their hotel later. 

“Back at our hotel, we saw all the same videos of violence that you did on the mainstream media,” Ryan said on Facebook. “It stunned us, and we don’t condone it in any way.” 

The pro-Trump duo are unapologetic for their support of President Donald Trump and Ross has stated on Facebook that she believes Trump will still become President again. 

“I can tell you all that within the next 48 hours President Trump will be addressing the nation with news that will shock the world,” Ross said 12 weeks ago. “Let me assure you that when this happens, boycotting our festivals will no longer be on your to do list. President Trump will be remaining in the White House.” 

Ross and Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.