Authorities Say They’re Ready, Come What May, for Saturday’s J6 Rally
WASHINGTON — Empty streets, a large police presence and a smattering of tourists taking photographs of the newly installed security fence lent a somber air to Capitol Hill Friday as preparations continued for Saturday’s J6 rally.
It was a reminder, despite the remaining summer foliage, of the scene last January in the days following the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol that left five people dead and hundreds of others injured.
The so-called “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday is being held by supporters of people arrested and charged with federal crimes related to the violent attack.
Though the event is expected to be much smaller than the protest of Jan. 6, Capitol Police and local law enforcement officials told reporters they are taking no chances, especially in light of intelligence that suggests there could be the potential for violence by late Saturday afternoon.
“We are planning for a safe event tomorrow,” said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger at the news conference. “We have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful and that if violence does occur, that we can stop it as quickly as possible.”
Manger and other law enforcement officials said there has been some indication that far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers might turn up.
Meanwhile, prominent members of both groups have said that they aren’t coming to Washington and have cautioned fellow members not to attend, fearing a set up by police.
Many commenters on online platforms popular with the far right like Telegram disavowed the rally, saying they believed law enforcement was promoting the event to entrap Trump supporters. Some urged their followers not to attend what they said was a “false flag” event they believed was organized in secret by the FBI.
Regardless, Manger said, “We would be foolish not to take seriously the intelligence that we have at our disposal.”
He went on to say that while it was difficult to say whether threats of violence at the event are credible, the“chatter” law enforcement has heard online and elsewhere has been similar to intelligence that was missed in January.
“We’re not going to tolerate violence, and we will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind,” Manger said. “The American public and members of Congress have an expectation that we protect the Capitol. And I am confident that the plan we have in place will meet that expectation.”
Hundreds of counter-demonstrators are also expected to show up, raising the possibility of clashes between the factions..
While the fencing was largely in place Friday morning, other barriers, both steel and concrete, were waiting to be pressed into place once road closures began Friday afternoon.
“Over the last eight months, the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police Department has been preparing, working to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of Jan. 6,” Manger said.
The entire D.C. metropolitan police force has already been activated ahead of the event, and U.S. Capitol Police have requested the assistance of other nearby law enforcement agencies as well.
In addition, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request for about 100 members of the D.C. National Guard to be stationed at a city armory near the Capitol, to be called as backup if needed by other law enforcement agencies.
Meanwhile, a Homeland Security intelligence report warned of social media posts that discussed possibly storming the Capitol the night before the rally.
According to the Associated Press, one user also “commented on kidnapping an identified member of Congress,” the document said, though the lawmaker wasn’t identified by name in the report.
“Other references to violence identified on social media include discussions of using the rally to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials, and ‘liberal churches,'” it said.
In a notice to House members this week, Sergeant at Arms William Walker urged lawmakers to stay away from the Capitol complex on Saturday and reminded them of security available if they were traveling or had protests in their districts.
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