Security ramped up for Sept. 18 ‘Justice for J6’ rally at US Capitol

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Security ramped up for Sept. 18 'Justice for J6' rally at US Capitol

Law enforcement officials have ramped up security measures in the days leading up to Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally at the Capitol, taking strides to prevent similar instances of violence that were seen during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, when pro-Trump protesters stormed the building in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election results.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Capitol Police recently issued warnings of online threats of violence related to the event in support of rioters that remain in prison for their involvement in the attack at the Capitol. Former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard —  the organizer of the event, who has labeled the incarcerated individuals as “political prisoners” — stated he believes roughly 700 individuals will attend. 

More than 600 people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 siege, which led to multiple fatalities including the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

A Homeland Security intelligence report obtained by the Associated Press cautioned that potential attendees’ social media posts included threats to kidnap “an identified member of Congress” in addition to “other references to violence identified on social media include discussions of using the rally to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials, and ‘liberal churches.’”

Security fencing is seen around the Capitol in Washington/
Security fencing is installed around the Capitol building in anticipation of Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally.
AP

The report also noted social media posts that discussed rioters attempting to storm the Capitol on the evening ahead of the rally. Participants are expected to include members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, according to intelligence reports. 

The security shortcomings that led to rioters breaching the building in January sparked bipartisan concerns about law enforcement’s preparedness in the face of significant threats. But Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger asserted on Friday that USCP and the DC Metropolitan Police Department are better equipped this time around, having received “a​​dequate resources for police officers, training equipment” and staffing ahead of the event. 

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was killed during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
AP

“There have been some threats of violence associated with this event tomorrow. We have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful, and if violence does occur we can stop it as quickly as possible. We are not going to tolerate violence,” he said at a press conference on Friday. 

“We will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind. The American public and the members of Congress have an expectation that we protect the Capitol. I am confident with the plan we have in place that we will be able to meet that expectation.” 

Security fencing and barriers similar to what was put in place following the attack has been reinstalled around the Capitol, and the Arlington County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md., police departments are sending backup for the event. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the Capitol Police’s request for 100 DC National Guard troops to be available for assistance in the event it is needed. 

“Today [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] approved a request from the Capitol Hill police board to provide 100 members of the Washington, DC, National Guard, who will be stationed at the DC Armory as a physical security task force this weekend to augment law enforcement over the weekend covering this Sept. 18 demonstration on Capitol Hill,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed at a press briefing, noting they will be “strictly unarmed.” 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the deployment of 100 “strictly unarmed” National Guard members at the Capitol.
AP

“The DC National Guard will join a number of local law enforcement agencies in supporting the Capitol Police. Should the Capitol Police require assistance, they will first utilize local, state and federal law enforcement capabilities before requesting the deployment of the physical security task force. The task force will only be deployed upon request of the Capitol Police to help protect the US Capitol building and congressional office buildings by manning building entry points and screening individuals that are seeking access to the building.”

Manger said he has been working with DC Police Chief Robert Contee to ensure counter protests remain safe and separate from the rally to tamp down on the potential for instances of violence. 

“What we’re concerned about, I think more than anything, is the possibility of counterdemonstrators making it to this demonstration, and there being violence between those two groups,” he said. 

U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger
Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger says he is confident that authorities will deter any violence at the rally “as quickly as possible.”
Getty Images

While law enforcement is prepared for hundreds of potentially violent protestors, the DHS report stated that a number of protestors attempting to rewrite the events of Jan. 6 “have claimed online that the event is a “false flag planned by authorities to target potential attendees for arrest and have encouraged like-minded individuals to not attend.” 

Congressional leaders were briefed by Sergeant at Arms William Walker on security preparations on Monday, just hours after authorities arrested a man for possession of prohibited weapons including a bayonet and machete outside DNC headquarters after noticing Nazi and white supremacist symbols on his truck. It remains unclear whether he was slated to attend the event. 

Former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard (right)
Former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard (right) says approximately 700 people will attend the rally.
AP

“They seemed very, very well prepared, much better prepared than before Jan. 6, and I think they’re ready for whatever might happen,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters following the briefing. 

No sitting lawmakers are expected to attend the event, but two congressional candidates are expected to speak: Joe Kent, who is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) for her seat after she voted in favor of impeaching former President Trump for inciting the riot, and Georgia GOP candidate Mike Collins. 

Former President Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump has supported the rally for “the people being persecuted so unfairly” from the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
AP

Former President Trump expressed support for the rally ahead of the event, releasing a statement saying: “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!” 

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