Updated on Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. ET.
Last week, Emily Goodman, a 29-year-old living in Washington, D.C., was scrolling through Bumble, a dating app, when she noticed a few unusual profiles.
In one of them, a man named Sebastian wears a USA sweatshirt and appears to be standing on a set of marble steps leading up to the front of the U.S. Capitol. His profile reads: “In DC for a few days. STOP THE STEAL.”
In another profile, a man is wearing an all-black T-shirt emblazoned with a white American flag. He identifies himself as a member of the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism.
Goodman says she immediately recognized the shirt. It looked similar to a sweatshirt worn by someone in a group of Proud Boys in a photo that a reporter posted the night before the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. She decided to report the account to Bumble.
“It’s scary,” Goodman says. “These people came to D.C. and wreaked havoc on a U.S. building and don’t seem to show any kind of remorse, or are proud about it.”
Women living in D.C. say pro-Trump profiles flooded dating apps in the days before and after Wednesday’s Capitol riots, when a mob violently breached the building, smashed windows and broke into lawmakers’ offices as those inside hid in fear. Five people died in connection to the riots, and numerous arrests have been made. As people continue to identify the rioters online, some women are extending that work on dating apps.
Women have described seeing profiles of men wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, as well as profiles with hashtags like #StopTheSteal in their bios. A Washington Post reporter shared a Bumble profile of a man who said he was “Here for America.”
For the nearly 700,000 people who live in D.C., where 92 percent of the population voted for President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 election, seeing pro-Trump profiles isn’t necessarily common. In connection to the riots, some women say, it’s jarring — and even upsetting. For women of color, especially, the pro-Trump rioters may represent hateful violence contrary to their own identities; one incident in Los Angeles went viral last week after a Black woman said she was attacked by a group of Trump supporters as she was walking home.
“I have seen guys in MAGA hats before, but very infrequently,” says 36-year-old Jenny Cavallero, who has lived in D.C. for nearly a decade. “This is still a very liberal city as a whole.”
But on Wednesday, Cavallero turned to Tinder for a bit of a distraction from the news. She quickly began to see profiles of people who had obviously come from out of town.
They “either had a MAGA hat or one guy said, like, ‘Proud Republican in town for a few days,’” Cavallero says. That was enough to make her believe they were here for the riots. She says she immediately began swiping left.
“I feel like the best thing for people like that is to not give them my attention because that’s what they want,” she says. If any of the profiles had explicitly indicated they’d been involved in violence at the Capitol, Cavallero says, she would have contacted the FBI tip line set up to identify those involved in the attack.
“I absolutely would have snitched on anyone who was claiming to be involved in that. I just thought it was horrendous,” she says. “I would have gleefully screenshotted that and forwarded it.”
Some people did. On Thursday, D.C. resident Alia Awadallah posted to Twitter, saying she had seen dozens of men on dating apps who had clearly been involved in the attempted insurrection.
“Is that info useful at all for law enforcement?” she wrote. She later tweeted that she was on hold with the FBI and the police and added, “Everyone get on the apps and start screenshotting.”
The FBI did not respond to questions about whether it has received dating app profiles on its tip line or if it is monitoring dating apps.
A spokesperson for Bumble says it prohibits any content encouraging illegal activity, including terrorism. The spokesperson added that Bumble has taken action on any account that has violated this policy and is removing any users confirmed to be participants in the attack on the Capitol.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Tinder said, “Our Community Guidelines do not allow any content that promotes, advocates for, or condones hatred, or violence against individuals and we remove any account associated with such activity. This includes any individuals identified as taking part in last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
Lindsay, a 33-year-old D.C. resident who is being identified by her first name because she fears professional consequences for speaking about politics, says she decided to remove most of her identifying information from Bumble, including her alma mater, upon seeing pro-Trump profiles.
She also added a disclaimer to her bio: “If you’re still part of the Trump cult, then I think you’re pathetic, and we will have nothing in common.”
Taking that action, she says, made her feel a little better. As she puts it: “I knew I was going to left-swipe all of these people and I just wanted to make sure that I got a little dig in.”
Lindsay says she isn’t against seeing Trump supporters on dating apps, but she is incensed by what they represented by coming to the District on Wednesday. In fact, she says, she’s dated conservative men before, but she sees those who participated in the riots differently.
“I’m just mad that people are so blindly following someone who has no interest in anything except for his own benefit,” she says. “I think a lot of us really just are still blown away that people can’t see what’s right in front of them, and all the implications of what they’re doing.”
Cavallero says seeing the pro-Trump profiles was offensive. “They caused a lot of pain for people in my community,” she says.
On Wednesday night, D.C. officials issued a 6 p.m. curfew and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) appealed to residents to stay home. “I think often people who come to D.C., they don’t think about the fact that people actually live here, they work here,” she says. The fact that rioters came to D.C., a majority-liberal city, caused destruction and then tried to find someone for sex, she says, is “audacious.”
Goodman says she didn’t hear back from Bumble when she reported some of the profiles she saw, including “Sebastian” and the man in the T-shirt. As a single woman dating in D.C., she says, the whole experience was deflating. But taking action in her own way allowed her to regain some sense of retribution, she says. She took videos and screenshots and sent them to her friends.
With rumblings of more pro-Trump demonstrations already being reignited online, D.C. residents are bracing for more potential disturbances or violence in the run-up to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
As Goodman puts it: “It’s just … trying to protect my female friends, you know, let them know that these people are still in town.”