WASHINGTON — Law enforcement officers and residents of the District of Columbia were on high alert on Saturday as far-right protesters were expected to gather at the base of the Capitol to protest the imprisonment of Donald J. Trump supporters who stormed the building on Jan. 6. . .
The Ministry of Defense put 100 National Guard troops on standby. The Capitol Police Department erected a fence on Capitol Hill. Even youth soccer games were canceled ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, the first significant gathering of right-wing protesters at the Capitol since a mob attacked the building in January when Congress officially endorsed President Biden’s victory.
The rally is hosted by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign aide, and his organization Look Ahead America. The organization has demanded that the Justice Department drop charges against what the group calls “nonviolent protesters” accused of the January 6 riots. According to the document, the organizers have been granted a permit for 700 attendees.
Mr Braynard has told protesters to be peaceful, “respectfully and kindly” to the hundreds of police officers expected to meet them, and not to carry any signs, flags or clothing promoting a candidate or opposing the 2020 election.
“What we’re looking for is pure patriotism,” he said in a promotional video.
But the Department of Homeland Security has warned of possible violence.
“We are aware of a small number of recent online threats of violence that reference the planned rally, including online discussions encouraging violence the day before the rally,” the department’s intelligence officers wrote in a report obtained by The New York Times. .
Officers are preparing for violence that erupts with “little to no warning,” although authorities have not identified “a specific or credible plot related to the event,” according to the document.
The rally is the latest attempt to rewrite history of the deadly mob attack on the Capitol, which aimed to disrupt the Congressional count to formalize Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, which prosecutors say led to as many as 1,000 attacks on police officers. Federal authorities released multiple intelligence reports this year warning that the January 6 attack may not have been an isolated episode and that domestic extremists have been emboldened by the mob’s attack and false narratives surrounding the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump issued a statement from his office on Thursday, making no mention of the meeting, but saying: “Our hearts and minds are with the people who are being so unfairly persecuted in connection with the January 6 protest regarding the rigged presidential elections.” He added: “JUSTICE WILL HAVE!”
It is not at all clear whether the event will attract a large audience. But to measure the lasting effect of the January 6 riots, Washington is bracing for trouble. Football matches and other outdoor activities for children in nearby parks were canceled. Defense Department chief spokesman John F. Kirby took his time for a dismal press conference in which the United States accepted blame for an errant airstrike in Kabul. He said the defense secretary had approved a request for a contingent of unarmed National Guard troops.
In addition to restoring the fence, the Capitol Police Department has installed new security camera technology to better monitor a wider range of activities around the complex and streamlined their information sharing processes and planning after the January attack.