US Capitol Police have requested assistance from the Pentagon ahead of a planned rally in support of people charged in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Defense Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that “we have received a request from Capitol Police for some assistance for this weekend’s protests – scheduled protests.” He declined to elaborate on the nature of the request except to say that Pentagon officials are “analyzing” it and “if it can be validated and supported, we’ll do that.”
“My understanding is that it is not an exorbitant ask,” Kirby added. “It’s not of a particularly large size or major capability. I think it’s really more in the form of some manpower support.”
The so-called “Justice for J6” rally is scheduled to take place Saturday afternoon near the West Front of the Capitol to show solidarity with “prisoners” held in connection with that day’s violence.
Organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign strategist, has told attendees in a message on the rally’s website not to wear or bring any “political, candidate, or another organization’s paraphernalia” including “clothing or banners supportive of President Trump or President Biden.”
Rather, rallygoers are being told to “[b]e respectful to our security team and law enforcement” and “wear your red, white, and blue and bring your American flag and signs to show your support of the J6 prisoners.”
Fox 5 DC reported Monday that Braynard had estimated that approximately 700 people would attend the rally, but authorities in the nation’s capital are not taking any chances. In addition to the Capitol Police’s request for backup, plans are in place to temporarily reinstall protective fencing that surrounded the Capitol for months following the Jan. 6 violence.
More than 600 people are facing federal charges linked to the riot, which led directly to the deaths of five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. More than 60 people have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the Capitol.
Only a fraction of the defendants remain locked up while they await trial. Lawyers have complained of overly harsh conditions for the Jan. 6 defendants in the DC jail, saying they are being held in what has been dubbed the “Patriot Unit.”
Some of the most serious charges, including assault, obstruction of an official proceeding or conspiracy, have been brought against members of two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Authorities are monitoring intelligence that members of those groups plan to attend Saturday’s rally.
There are also concerns about lone actors gravitating to the protest. On Monday, Capitol Police arrested a California man who had a bayonet and machete in his pickup truck outside of Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Donald Craighead, 44, also had a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on his truck and told officers he was “on patrol.” Police said it was unclear if he was planning on attending any upcoming demonstrations.
In addition to the Capitol protest, Braynard’s group Look Ahead America has planned smaller rallies in 17 states, including outside the state capitol buildings in New York and New Jersey.
With Post wires