A massive security campaign is being prepared today to face an uncertain number of demonstrators hoping to return to the Capitol, this time to voice support for rioters in the far-reaching federal investigation into the deadly January 6 attack on the seat of government Has been. .
Eight months after the capitol building was vandalized by waves of violent supporters of former President Donald Trump, the grounds are at once again wrought iron fence, as a possible new test awaits an army of law enforcement officers who were badly overwhelmed in January.
United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, who took command after a security failure that claimed his predecessor’s job, declared the agency ready for action on Friday, while some were still recovering from riot-related injuries. Huh.
“We are planning a safe event,” Manger said at a joint Capitol news conference with city police officials. “We are not going to tolerate violence and we will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind.”
In recent days, rally organizer Matt Brainard has appeared to downplay expectations for the size of the gathering, arguing that the heavy security measures are intended to be “intimidating” more than security, and that people should be taken aback by so-called “justices”. For J6″ is designed to discourage you from participating. ” Competition.
“It’s all to stop people from coming in,” said Brainard, a former Trump campaign staffer whose group holds more than 600 people arrested in the Capitol attack as “political prisoners.”
“It’s all about downplaying the appearance. In the end, it might just be me and a bullhorn,” he told USA Today.
Trump, who on January 6 hailed the rioters as patriots, appeared later this week to extend support for Saturday’s incident, referring to the rioters as “oppressed” protesters.
“Our hearts and minds are with those who are being unfairly abused in protest against the rigging of the January 6 presidential election,” Trump said in a statement. “Apart from everything else, it has been conclusively proven that we are a two-tier system of justice. In the end, justice will prevail!”
But Heidi Berich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said the event is not generating the same amount of social media excitement as it did with January 6.
some groups, with proud boys from far and wide, are “joking” of the incident, suggesting that it is a set-up by law enforcement to conduct a new sweep of arrests,” Berich said.
“This is not an event that is being celebrated by far-right extremist groups,” she said.
Capitol Police, DC Metropolitan Police Department and Homeland Security
Early estimates put a crowd of 700 protesters who are expected to gather in Union Square, a public plaza west of the Capitol.
If true, that number would also represent a fraction of the violent mob that eventually stormed the Capitol building in January, killing five people and injuring about 150 police officers.
Yet that gruesome January scene and a deadly April incident in which a car rammed a Capitol barricade, killing Officer William Evans, remain fresh reminders that the iconic domed building serves as a symbol not only of American democracy but Serves as an emerging target.
Concern was displayed similar to last month when a North Carolina man with mental illness was warned that he was carrying bombs in a pickup truck parked near the Capitol when parts of government premises were evacuated. had gone. No explosives were recovered, but the incident sparked an all-out response by law enforcement.
Little, apparently, is being given Saturday, as federal and local law enforcement officials were called this week to brief lawmakers on their preparations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to aides on Wednesday, promising that security officials would be better prepared for Saturday than January 6.
“The leadership of Congress has been informed, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, of the Capitol Police Board’s unprecedented preparedness to address the nature of the threat and yet another attempt to subvert our national purpose,” Pelosi wrote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y. has also expressed satisfaction over the security plan.
“I think they are ready for anything,” Schumer said earlier this week.
In addition to the fencing and full deployment of the Capital Police, the DC Metropolitan Police Department has activated its entire force for the event.
The Department of Homeland Security also said it was coordinating “out of caution” with Capitol police and public safety partners, while others have urged preparedness for a worst-case scenario.
Retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore, who critically reviewed Capitol Police’s operations after the January 6 riots, said security officials “should recognize that this rally has the potential to become a terrorist attack” and that officers should be prepared. . Use lethal force if necessary.
Honor’s report, released in March, called for a revised training program, intelligence gathering system and efforts to fill hundreds of positions.
“I trust them (capital police). They now have equipment to use in civil unrest; He has been getting training recently. I don’t think they want to take another… hoopin’,” Honore said.
“We must not be fooled again,” he said.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank who spoke with security planners, said Saturday’s rally represents the “first major test” for local officials since the deadly Capitol riots.
“So much happened on January 6th that underscored the importance of intelligence, mutual aid, communication and the need for a ‘Plan B’,” Wexler said.
Organizer: Event designed to be ‘peaceful’
While the rally continues to advance a politically charged counter-narrative of the January 6 violence, organizer Brainard says the event, and other similar gatherings, are planned for Saturday to be “peaceful” in more than a dozen states. has been designed.
In a video message, Brainard urged protesters to be “respectful and kind” to law enforcement officers. He has discouraged attendees from openly supporting political candidates with distinctive clothing, flags and other symbols that were associated with Trump on January 6.
Instead, Brainard said it was intended to draw attention to what he described as a “serious violation of civil rights” involving hundreds of people accused in the January riots.
“We are battling propaganda,” he said in an interview.
Even if the event lacks numbers, Berich of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism said the group’s message will likely resonate with the far-right.
“One of the biggest concerns is the narrative that they are pushing, as if these (January 6 rioters) were on the level of Martin Luther King,” Berich said. “It’s part of an effort to undermine our democratic principles.”