The U.S. Capitol Police Department has taken note of “concerning online chatter” ahead of this Saturday, when allies of former President Donald Trump plan to hold a demonstration in Washington to protest the treatment of those arrested for their alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
What You Need To Know
- The U.S. Capitol Police Department is aware of "concerning online chatter" ahead of a planned rally to be held outside the Capitol building on Saturday
- Allies of former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol “political prisoners"
- Trump supporters plan to hold a demonstration in Washington to protest the treatment of those arrested for their alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill
- Rally organizer and former Trump campaign strategist Matt Braynard says those jailed are being unfairly prosecuted
The department has held planning meetings with lawmakers, other law enforcement agencies and members of Congress over the course of the past month in order to prepare for the Sept. 18 rally, the USCP said in a statement.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Chief Tom Manger wrote in part. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
On Monday, USCP authorized the use of temporary fencing around the Capitol to protect against potentially violent demonstrations. Last week, the department issued an emergency declaration — set to go into effect just ahead of the Saturday rally — that will allow members of other law enforcement agencies to be deputized as “police special officers” this weekend.
“We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” Manger added. “We are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from the local community and our Congressional stakeholders as we carry out our critical mission.”
The anticipated crowd size and the intensity of the Saturday rally are unclear, but law enforcement appears to be taking no chances. The U.S. Capitol Police Department was, in particular, criticized and summarily dismissed for its handling of Jan. 6.
Allies of former President Donald Trump have called those charged in the Capitol riot “political prisoners," a stunning effort to revise the narrative of that deadly day.
The brazen rhetoric ahead of a rally planned for Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to explain away the horrific assault and obscure what played out for all the world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president storming the building, battling police and trying to stop Congress from certifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden.
While authorities have been bracing for a repeat appearance by right-wing extremist groups and other Trump loyalists who mobbed the Capitol, it’s unclear if those actors will participate in the new event. The extremist groups are concerning because, while members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers made up a small portion of the Jan. 6 rioters, they are accused of some of the more serious crimes in the attack.
Rally organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign strategist, has been promoting the event and others like it in cities nationwide, focusing attention on what he calls the “prisoners” being unfairly prosecuted for their involvement in the Jan. 6 riot.
“I am so proud of all of the brave patriots who participated in these rallies under the same threat to their rights of so many who are being held in prison now for a non-violent expression of their First Amendment rights,” he said in a July news release.
Braynard declined to respond to additional questions by email, and The Associated Press declined to accept the conditions he made for an interview.
As Trump openly considers another run for the White House, many of the Republican lawmakers who joined his effort to challenge Biden’s victory are staying away from the Saturday rally, even though many still echo his false claims that the election was rigged — despite numerous court cases by Trump’s allies that have failed to confirm those allegations.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who joined rally-goers near the White House on Jan. 6 where Trump encouraged the crowd to go to the Capitol, declined to comment, his spokesman said by email. Brooks is now running for the Senate.
Another Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who voted to challenge some Electoral College tallies, was unavailable for an interview, his office said.
Also declining an interview was Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was captured in a photo raising a fist in salute to the mob as he entered the Capitol that day.
Yet, even in their absence, some of the Republicans are telegraphing their views. When asked whether he would be attending, Hawley’s office issued a comment on the senator’s behalf.
“Joe Biden should resign,” Hawley said in a statement.
More than 600 people are facing federal charges in the riot that injured dozens of officers and sent lawmakers into hiding. Five people eventually died, including Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into a lobby off the House chamber. Several police officers later took their own lives.
Hundreds of people were charged with misdemeanors for entering the Capitol illegally, but hundreds of others are facing more serious felony charges including assault, obstruction of an official proceeding or conspiracy.
The most serious cases have been brought against members of two far-right extremist groups — the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — as authorities probe to what extent the attack was planned. No Jan. 6 defendant has been charged with sedition, though it was initially considered by authorities.
More than 60 people have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the Capitol.
Only a fraction of the defendants remain locked up while they await trial. Lawyers have complained of overly harsh conditions for the Jan. 6 defendants in the D.C. jail, saying they are being held in what has been dubbed the “Patriot Unit.”
Defenders of the alleged Capitol attackers claim they are facing harsher prosecutions because of their political views than others, including Black Lives Matter protesters, but a review of court cases by the AP refutes that claim.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the select panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, said those who broke the law need to be prosecuted, “otherwise, we just rationalize, excuse and encourage more of the same.”
Schiff laments that the nation had a chance to move on from the attack of Jan. 6, but instead chose a different path.
“There was really an opportunity to repudiate everything that led up to Jan. 6, and instead, Republican leadership has continued to embrace it,” he said. “So that is discouraging. It means that the recovery is going to take much longer than it should.”
The Capitol’s leafy grounds, a park-like favorite spot for people to snap photos in front of the iconic dome, would typically see few lawmakers or staff on a Saturday. While the Senate returns to session Monday, the House doesn't resume until after the Monday following the rally.
When the fence first went up around the Capitol after the January attack, it drew heavy criticism from those worried about the message being sent as a symbol of democracy was closed off. Now, it's increasingly seen as necessary precaution.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated with information from the U.S. Capitol Police.