Days before a demonstration in support of jailed January 6th rioters is set to take place in Washington, D.C., law enforcement has re-installed fencing around the U.S. Capitol and asked the Department of Defense to put National Guard personnel on standby.
On Saturday September 18th, ‘The Justice for J6’ rally is expected to draw 700 people to Union Square Plaza near the Capitol Reflecting Pool at noon. The former Trump campaign operative who organized the rally, Matt Braynard, tweeted that it will be “a 100% peaceful event in support of the nonviolent offenders from January 6th who have been charged.”
But law enforcement is weary of a January 6th repeat. One hundred and forty police officers were injured that day as hundreds of Trump supporters breached the Capitol.
The latest intelligence report on the event notes that online chatter in support of the rally started increasing after the officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt went public with his identity in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
There’s been a noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric around the event and heated discussions centered on Babbitt’s shooting on social media and discussion boards, according to the memo. The document warns that many individuals may also see September 18 as a “Justice for Ashli Babbitt” rally, which could be cause for concern, and it’s not unreasonable to plan for violent altercations.
“We are closely monitoring Sept. 18 and we are planning accordingly,” said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger earlier this month. “After Jan. 6, we made department-wide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe.”
In addition, the Capitol Police said they “issued an emergency declaration, which will go into effect about the time of the demonstration and allow the Department to deputize outside law enforcement officers as United States Capitol Police Special Officers.”
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the Capitol Police have requested assistance from the DC National Guard. According to CNN:
A source familiar with the conversations says there have been ongoing discussions between the DC National Guard and the Capitol Police about what role the Guard can take in assisting law enforcement and how best to set up and use a quick reaction force in case of an emergency.
A quick reaction force is a predetermined number of guardsmen who remain on standby to respond in different situations. Ahead of January 6, the DC National Guard had a force of 40 troops on standby to help with traffic duties and crowd control if necessary. As the situation at the Capitol deteriorated that night, it took valuable minutes to task the force with a different role.
The fencing around the Capitol was installed on Wednesday night and should come down “soon after” the event, according to Manger. Following the January 6th attack, the fence remained in place until July.
Republicans – including former president Donald Trump – have kept their distance from ‘Justice for J6.’ The New York Times reports:
Mr. Trump, aides said, has little interest in engaging with the protest and has no plans to be anywhere near Washington on Saturday…[he] views the planned protest as a setup that the news media will use against him regardless of the outcome, according to people familiar with his thinking.
The New York Times add that no elected GOP official is expected to attend the event. Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, expressed disdain for the protesters, saying of police, “They need to take a firm line, buddy..If anybody gets out of line, they need to whack ’em.”