The United States Capitol Police were taking no chances, with hundreds of officers brought to Washington in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the attack leading up to the inauguration. The fence around the Capitol has been put back in place, the city police have been fully activated, and the Capitol police have enlisted the help of the National Guard.
There were a few scuffles at the start of the rally and one person was arrested for carrying a knife, police said, but no major incidents were reported from the start. Still, law enforcement officials remained nervous, concerned about the possibility of violent protesters and counter-protesters.
Police were also preparing for the possibility that some protesters would arrive with weapons, although backpacks are allowed in the area and there are no checkpoints.
Police say ready to prevent violence at U.S. Capitol riot rally
The rally was surrounded by heavy dump trucks and took place in fields far from the Capitol. Law enforcement officers prepared in assembly areas and metal barricades were placed in the streets. Inside the Capitol, police riot shields were placed near doors and windows, a stark difference from January, when officers inside were left without riot gear and quickly overwhelmed by the crowd that burst inside.
Persistent attempts to rewrite the narrative of the violence and panic of January 6, and the growing volatility behind the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, made it impossible to predict what might happen this weekend. After all, law enforcement didn’t expect a free speech protest until the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt Joe Biden’s certification of victory. .
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told a press conference on Friday that it was difficult to say whether threats of violence at the event were credible, but the “gossip” online and elsewhere was similar to missing information in January.
Pelosi says briefings are being held ahead of “Justice for J6” rally
The rally, hosted by former Trump campaign member Matt Braynard, aims to support those detained after the Jan.6 uprising – about 63 people being held behind bars of the more than 600 indicted in the deadly riot. This is just the latest attempt to downplay and deny the January violence. In an interview with MSNBC, he downplayed the low attendance, saying instead that the media coverage of the event helped get the message out.
Intelligence gathered before the rally suggests that extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will show up. But some prominent members of the groups swore they weren’t going and told others not to attend. Far-right online chatter has been generally tamed, with Republican lawmakers downplaying the event.
The White House is visible behind a security sign. Thursday September 17th. Washington, DC, USA, September 17, 2021. Photo by Cliff Owen / CNP / ABACAPRESS.COM
Security measures on Capitol Hill stepped up ahead of Trump’s September 18 rally
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request that approximately 100 members of the DC National Guard be stationed at a town armory near the Capitol, to be called in as needed as backup. They will be without firearms, but will be equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.
Congress is out of session and no lawmakers were to be in the building on Saturday. Biden was in Delaware for the weekend.
Many commentators on online platforms like Telegram who are popular with the far right disowned the rally, saying they believed law enforcement was promoting the event to trap Trump supporters. Some urged their supporters not to attend an event they said was secretly organized by the FBI.
At the same time, however, some commentators continued to promote the planned gatherings in cities and state capitals across the country.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump still used his platform as the GOP’s most popular leader to express sympathy for those arrested and continue to spread election misinformation, stepping up his attacks as the week goes on.
The Associated Press examined hundreds of court and jail records for Capitol Riot defendants to find out how many were being held and found about 63 inmates in federal custody awaiting trial or sentencing hearings. Federal authorities are still on the lookout for other suspects who may also end up behind bars.
At least 30 are imprisoned in Washington. The rest are locked up in establishments across the country. They said they were being treated unfairly, and one defendant said he was beaten.
Federal authorities have identified several of those detained as leaders, members or associates of extremist groups, including nine accused linked to the Proud Boys and three linked to the anti-government Oath Keepers. Dozens of people are accused of plotting to stage coordinated attacks on the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College’s vote of 2020, one of the most serious charges.
Some jailed defendants are accused of assaulting police officers, others of uttering violent threats. A few were released after their arrest but subsequently detained again on charges of violating the conditions of release.
“I was indeed defenseless”: investigators relive the US Capitol insurgency
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has set standards that judges must apply in deciding whether or not to jail an accused of the Capitol Riot. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in March that rioters accused of assaulting officers, smashing windows, doors and barricades, or playing a leading role in the attack were in “a different category of dangerousness ”from those who simply encouraged violence or entered the building after being pierced.
But it is not known how the cases of the majority of those charged will end. A California woman who joined the crowd on Friday avoided jail time when a federal judge sentenced her to probation, a result that fits an early pattern in the January 6 riot lawsuits.
Associated Press editors Michael Kunzelman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Jacques Billeaud, David Klepper, Lisa Mascaro, Jake Bleiberg, Amanda Seitz, Nathan Ellgren and Robert Burns contributed to this report.