WASHINGTON (AP) – The fence around the Capitol is up again. The DC police department is ready and the US Capitol Police have turned to nearby law enforcement agencies for help, including the US National Guard.
Capitol Police take no chances as they prepare for Saturday’s rally at the United States Capitol in support of rioters jailed after the violent insurrection of January 6. They are working to prevent a repeat of the attack prior to the inauguration.
Persistent attempts for rewrite the narrative of violence and the panic of the day, and the increasing volatility behind the lie that the 2020 elections were stolen they have made it impossible to predict what may happen this weekend. After all, the forces of order were only waiting for a protest for freedom of expression the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt Joe Biden’s certification of victory.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a press conference on friday It was hard to say whether the threats of violence for Saturday’s event are credible, but the “chatter” online and elsewhere has been similar to the intelligence that was lost in January.
A permit for the protest allows 700 people. Manger said he believes the most likely possibility of violence on Saturday will involve clashes between protesters and counter-protesters who are expected to show up. Police are also preparing for the possibility of some protesters arriving with weapons.
“We will not tolerate violence and we will not tolerate any type of criminal behavior,” Manger said. “The American public and members of Congress expect us to protect the Capitol. And I’m sure the plan we have will meet that expectation. “
The rally, organized by former Trump campaign staff member Matt Braynard, aims to support the people who have been detained after the January 6 insurrection: some 63 people detained behind bars out of the more than 600 accused in the deadly riot. It’s the last tried for downplay and deny January violence.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving in a House committee investigating the January attacks, said he supports aggressive law enforcement efforts.
“Hopefully, the overreaction of law enforcement is actually what can keep this from getting out of hand,” Kinzinger said in an interview Thursday. He predicted that people will criticize the effort if the protest is small and non-violent, “but that is what must happen because January 6 was obviously an insufficient reaction and it escalated.”
Intelligence gathered ahead of Saturday’s rally has suggested extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will appear, but some prominent members of the groups have vowed not to go and have told others not to attend. Online chatter from the far-right has been generally subdued, and Republican lawmakers are downplaying the event.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request for about 100 members of the DC National Guard to be stationed at a city armory near the Capitol, to be called in if necessary as backup to other law enforcement agencies. . They will primarily protect the Capitol building and the Congressional offices. They will be without firearms, but will be equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.
Meanwhile, a Homeland Security intelligence report warned of social media posts discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol the night before the rally. One user also “commented on the kidnapping of an identified member of Congress,” the document says, although the legislator was not identified by name in the report. No legislator was expected to be in the building on Saturday, as Congress is out of session.
“Other references to violence identified on social media include discussions about the use of the demonstration to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials and ‘liberal churches,'” the intelligence report said.
Many commenters on online platforms such as Telegram, which are popular with the far right, disavowed the rally and said they believed police were promoting the event to catch Trump supporters. Some urged their followers not to attend what they said was an event that they believed had been secretly organized by the FBI.
At the same time, however, some commentators continued to promote rallies planned for Saturday in cities and state capitals across the country.
The online discussion before January 6 was intense. But that kind of talk has so far not been replicated on social media with hashtags promoting the event gaining little traction.
In a notice to members of the House this week, Sergeant at Arms William Walker urged lawmakers to stay away. And those who supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat distanced themselves from the event.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz when asked about the rally.
Trump is still using his platform as the GOP’s most popular leader to express his sympathy for those who were arrested and continue to spread misinformation about the election. In a statement Thursday, he said: “Our hearts and minds go out to the people so unjustly persecuted in connection with the January 6 protest over the rigged presidential election.”
The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of court and jail records of those accused of riot on Capitol Hill to discover how many were in custody and found that approximately 63 were in federal custody awaiting trial or sentencing hearings. Federal officials are still searching for other suspects who could also end up behind bars.
At least 30 are incarcerated in Washington. The rest are locked up in facilities across the country. They have said they are being treated unfairly and one defendant said they beat him.
Federal authorities have identified several of the detainees as leaders, members or associates of extremist groups, including nine defendants linked to the Proud Boys and three linked to the anti-government Oath Keepers. Dozens of people are accused of conspiring to mount coordinated attacks on Capitol Hill to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 Electoral College vote, one of the most serious charges.
Some incarcerated defendants are charged with assaulting police officers, others with making violent threats. Some were released after their arrest, but were subsequently detained again, accused of violating the conditions of release.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has set standards for judges to apply when deciding whether to incarcerate a person accused of a riot on Capitol Hill. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in March that rioters accused of assaulting officers, breaking windows, doors and barricades, or playing leadership roles in the attack were in “a different category of dangerousness” than those who simply cheered for violence or entered the building after being raped.
But it is not clear how the cases of most of the defendants will end. On Friday, a California woman who joined the mob avoided a prison sentence when a federal judge sentenced her to probation, a result that fits an initial pattern in the January 6 riot prosecutions.
Associated Press writers Michael Kunzelman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Jacques Billeaud, David Klepper, Lisa Mascaro, Jake Bleiberg, Amanda Seitz, and Robert Burns contributed to this report.