Washington, Sept. 18 (BUS): The fence around the Capitol is back. The Metropolitan Police Department is on standby, and the US Capitol Police has requested assistance from nearby law enforcement agencies including the US National Guard.
Capitol Police are not risking preparing for Saturday’s demonstration at the US Capitol in support of jailed rioters after the violent January 6 rebellion. They are working to avoid a repeat of the pre-inauguration attack, the Associated Press reports.
Constant attempts to rewrite the narrative of violence and panic prevailing today, and the growing volatility behind the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, have made it impossible to predict what might happen this weekend. After all, law enforcement was only expecting a free speech protest on the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the ratification of Joe Biden’s victory.
It was difficult to determine whether the threats of violence at Saturday’s event were credible, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said at a news conference Friday, but the “chatter” online and elsewhere was similar to the intelligence that was missed in January.
A permit to protest is allowed for 700 people. Manger said he believed the most likely possibility of violence on Saturday would include clashes between protesters and the expected opposition demonstrators. The police are also preparing for the possibility of some protesters arriving with weapons.
“We will not tolerate violence, and we will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind,” Manger said. The American public and members of Congress expect to protect the Capitol. I am confident that the plan we have put in place will fulfill that expectation.”
The rally, organized by Matt Brainard, a former Trump campaign employee, aims to support people arrested after the January 6 rebellion — about 63 people being held behind bars among more than 600 accused in the deadly riots. It is the latest attempt to downplay and deny the January violence.
Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican serving on the House committee investigating the January attacks, said he supports aggressive law enforcement efforts.
“Hopefully, law enforcement’s overreaction is actually the thing that can prevent this from getting out of hand,” Kinzinger said in an interview Thursday. He predicted that people would criticize the effort if the protest was small and nonviolent, “but that’s what has to happen because Jan. 6 the reaction was obviously low and it escalated.”
Intelligence gathered ahead of Saturday’s rally indicated that extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers would be attending. But some prominent members of the groups swore to not attend and asked others not to. The far-right chatter online has generally been tame, and Republican lawmakers are downplaying the event.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request for about 100 National Guard personnel in the capital to be stationed at the city’s weapons depot near the Capitol Building, to be called upon if necessary to support other law enforcement agencies. They will primarily protect the Capitol and the offices of Congress. They will be without firearms, but will be provided with batons and flak jackets for self-defense.
Meanwhile, a Homeland Security Intelligence report warned of social media posts discussing a possible storming of the Capitol the night before the rally. The document said one user “also commented on the kidnapping of a specific member of Congress,” although the lawmaker was not identified by name in the report. No lawmakers were expected to be in the building on Saturday, because Congress is out of session.
“Other references to violence identified on social media include discussions of the use of the march to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials, and ‘liberal churches’,” the intelligence report said.
Several commentators on online platforms such as Telegram popular with the far right have disavowed the rally, saying they believe law enforcement is promoting the event to trap Trump supporters. Some urged their followers not to attend what they said was an event they believed was secretly organized by the FBI.
At the same time, some commentators continued to promote the gatherings planned for Saturday in cities and state capitals across the country.
The online discussion before January 6 was intense. But this kind of chatter has yet to be replicated on social media with hashtags promoting the event and has gained little attention.
In a notice to members of the House of Representatives this week, Arms Sgt. William Walker urged lawmakers to stay away. Those who supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat have distanced themselves from the event.
“I don’t know what that is,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said when asked about the rally.
Trump continues to use his platform as the most popular leader in the Republican Party to express sympathy for those who have been arrested and continue to spread disinformation about the election. “Our hearts and minds are with the people who are being unfairly persecuted in connection with the January 6 demonstration over the fraudulent presidential election,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of court and prison records of Capitol riot suspects to reveal the number of detainees and found that nearly 63 are being held in federal custody awaiting trial or hearings. Federal officials are still looking for other suspects who may end up behind bars.
At least 30 are imprisoned in Washington. The rest are locked up in facilities across the country. They said they were being treated unfairly, and one of the defendants said he was beaten.
Federal authorities have identified many of the detainees as leaders, members, or accomplices of an extremist group, including nine defendants associated with the “Proud Boys” and three associated with anti-government department guards. Dozens are accused of plotting to stage coordinated attacks on the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 Electoral College vote, among the most serious charges.
Some of the imprisoned defendants are accused of assaulting police officers, others of making violent threats. A few were released after their arrest, but were arrested again after being accused of violating the terms of their release.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Circuit has set standards for judges to apply in deciding whether to imprison an accused in the Capitol riots. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled in March that rioters accused of assaulting officers, breaching windows, doors and barricades, or playing leadership roles in the attack were in a “different category of severity” than those who only shouted violence or entered the building after storming it.
But it is not clear how the cases of the majority of the accused will end. On Friday, a California woman who joined gangs avoided jail time when a federal judge sentenced her to probation, a finding that fits a pattern early in the January 6 riots trials.