U.S. Capitol Police said on Friday they are ready for Saturday’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally and vowed not to have a repeat of January 6th, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building.
Officials sounded confident about their preparations even as they acknowledged receiving threats of violence and warnings against specific members of Congress.
‘The US Capitol Police Department has been working around the clock for the last several weeks to ensure that we have a safe event tomorrow,’ USCP Police Chief Tom Manager said during a press conference on Capitol Hill.
USCP Police Chief Tom Manager said his officers were ready for Saturday’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally and said there would be no repeat of January 6th
‘But perhaps more importantly, over the last eight months, the leadership of the US Capitol Police Department has been preparing working to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of January 6,’ he added.
Nearly 700 Trump supporters and far-right activists are expected on the West lawn of the Capitol on Saturday. They are protesting the federal charges that nearly 600 January 6th participants are facing for storming the Capitol, committing violence against the police, and causing destruction in the building.
USCP officers outlined the preparations they took to be ready for the rally even as they declined to go into details as not to reveal any sensitive security information.
The intent was to instill a sense of confidence and security going into the event. Officials are determined not to repeat the intelligence and planning mistakes revealed in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection.
Manager admitted his biggest worry for Saturday was a clash between those attending the rally and any counter protesters who may attend.
Washington D.C. is hosting its popular H Street Festival on Saturday, which takes place a few miles from the Capitol Building, leading to concerns about potential street clashes.
‘What we’re concerned about, I think more than anything, is the possibility of counter demonstrators and making it to this demonstration, and they’re being violence between those two groups,’ Manager said. ‘In my opinion, that’s the most likely scenario for violence.’
He said their intelligence indicated three different groups – one of whom had a history of clashes – were talking of attending. He did not specify the groups.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, Capitol Hill has turned into a fortress with security fencing back up around the perimeter; signs warn the area around the Capitol is closed
Around 700 people are expected for Saturday’s rally, which is to protest the federal charges against those who stormed the Capitol on January 6
A US Capitol Police K-9 officer patrols the Capitol grounds
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report warned of social media posts that discussed the possibly of storming the Capitol Friday night. 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.
Information about September 18 ‘Justice for J6’ rally
Location: Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the West Front containing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool
Start time: 12 noon ET
Leaders of event: Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign official who organized the rally
He will co-host alongside Cara Castronuova, a pro-Trump boxer who appeared on season 11 of The Biggest Loser
Speakers: Joe Kent, who’s challenging GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington state; she is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump
Mike Collins, a Republican running for Congress in Georgia
Family members of people held on January 6 charges
Manager declined to comment on 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,” the document said.
Lawmakers won’t be in the Capitol building on Saturday but USCP has briefed Congressional leadership in the lead up to the rally.
Manager admitted threats to individual members of Congress have increased in recent days. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Washington DC until the week of September 20th.
‘We have just, in the last few days, we’ve had a number of threats – specific threats – come in against specific members of Congress. And so we were going to handle those the same way we always handle those. And there’s nothing different about the way we’re going to deal with those, because of the rally tomorrow,’ he said.
Additionally, House Sergeant at Arms William Walker, in a notice to members of Congress this week, urged lawmakers to stay away from the Capitol complex on Saturday and reminded them that security is available if they were traveling or had protests in their districts.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, Capitol Hill has turned into a fortress. Security fencing is back up around the perimeter, riot shields are ready, the National Guard is on stand by and DC Metro Police will activate their entire force on Saturday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved 100 National Guardsmen to be on standby at the DC Armory for support on Saturday if they are needed. They won’t be armed but will be equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.
Manager wouldn’t give an indication of how seriously they are taking threats of violence.
‘It’s tough to say whether they’re credible or not it,’ he said of the threats. ‘We don’t know with any certainty.’
He added: ‘We’re not taking any chances.’
The capitol police force and its partners in the region – including the DC National Guard and DC Metro Police – have held multiple exercises, including physical ones and table top drills, to prepare for Saturday, according to Sean Gallagher, an assistant chief for USCP.
‘Our officers are ready,’ he said. ‘We are hoping and expecting a peaceful event this weekend, but our operational plan is scalable, so that we will be ready to handle anything that occurs.’
But the organizer of the rally, a former Trump campaign operative, said it would be a peaceful event.
Matt Braynard, who is also the executive director of Look Ahead America, said the intent was to draw attention to the Trump supporters facing federal charges for their role on January 6th.
‘We look forward to having a very safe, peaceful expression of our First Amendment rights,’ he said Friday morning on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal.’
He noted ‘there’s no intent for violence on our side.’
He also said he’s hired private security for rally.
‘Yes a diplomatic security team but they’re looped in with the Capitol Police Department and many of them are themselves, you know, ex cops,’ he said.
Manager said they’ve had ‘courtesy’ conversations with rally organizers and he was aware they hired private security.
Braynard said his private security team would not be armed.
He also said he’s asking attendees to film any encounters they have at the rally.
‘I believe it’s my responsibility to do everything I can do to keep every one of our attendees safe and to do that, we’re asking when people leave to leave in large groups, we’re asking for people to, if you see anything at all suspicious to somebody acting oddly – look we’ve all got television studios, right here in our pocket, whip it out and start recording,’ he said.
Matt Braynard, organizer of the ‘Justice for J6’ rally, said those arrested on January 6th are ‘political prisoners’
US Capitol and Washington, DC, police officials arrive for a press conference at the Capitol on Friday to discuss security preparations for Saturday
Bicycle racks and an unscalable fence surround the U.S. Capitol ahead the rally
A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols the streets around the Capitol
Republicans are distancing themselves from the event. No GOP lawmaker is scheduled to speak and only two Republican House candidates are on the agenda.
Far right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend. Members of those groups were among those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and face some of the toughest federal charges as a result.
Intelligence officials told CBS News they are worried about individual fights breaking out or ‘lone wolf’-style violence or individual ‘knuckleheads’ using the gathering to cause trouble.
The FBI is monitoring chatter on social media sites and message boards, including Telegram, Parler and Gab.
The January 6th riot resulted in five dead. Four police officers working that day committed suicide and more than 100 police officers were injured. The rioters did more than $1 million in damage to the Capitol.
Braynard said he organized Saturday’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally to draw attention to the federal charges that almost 600 MAGA supporters who stormed the Capitol are facing. He called them ‘political prisoners.’
He is part of a group of Trump supporters attempting to rewrite the narrative of the violence and panic of January 6th. Braynard argued during his C-SPAN appearance the MAGA protesters merely visited the Capitol on that day, walking between the security ropes. Video footage from the day shows the violence committed against law enforcement and the destruction in the building.
‘We’ve condemned all violence. We think that anybody that committed violence against police officers or destroy property at the Capitol Building on January 6 should be given a speedy trial,’ Braynard said, even as he argued the protesters didn’t do such things.
At least 30 people from January 6th are jailed in Washington. The rest are in facilities across the country.
Braynard argued the January 6 rioters are being treated much more harshly than other protesters, particularly those arrested for championing progressive causes.
‘There’s a big disparity between the way those people are being treated and these people are being treated despite engage in exactly the same behavior and facing the same charges. It’s not about what they did, but about what they believe and that’s what makes them political prisoners,’ he said.
Braynard previously said he asked attendees not to wear political t-shirts or carry signs for a particular political candidate.
Riot gear from the US Capitol Police is ready inside the Capitol
Donald Trump defended the January 6th rioters being prosecuted for their storming of the Capitol building – above the former president speaking at a rally outside of the White House on the morning of January 6th
Meanwhile, Donald Trump warned that Saturday’s rally is a ‘setup’.
‘On Saturday, that’s a setup,’ Trump told the Federalist. ‘If people don’t show up they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a lack of spirit.’ And if people do show up they’ll be harassed.’
His comments come after he defended the January 6th rioters being prosecuted for their storming of the Capitol building, saying they were being ‘persecuted so unfairly’ for protesting the ‘rigged presidential election.’
‘Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!’ Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him as a result of massive election fraud. He faced a second impeachment trial – and was acquitted – on charges he helped incite the January 6th riot.
He gave a fiery speech outside the White House on January 6th, shortly before his MAGA supporters stormed Capitol Hill.
But he’s not taking the same steps in the lead up to Saturday’s rally. The former president will spend the Saturday at a golf tournament at his Bedminster, N.J., club, the New York Times reported.