- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2021

D.C. National Guard troops will be deployed to assist local law enforcement during pro-Trump rallies in downtown Washington this week.

“At the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser, the District of Columbia National Guard is in a support role to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) which will enable them to provide a safe environment for our fellow citizens to exercise their first amendment right to demonstrate,” Army Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commander of the D.C. National Guard, said Monday in a press release.

About 340 unarmed Guardsmen will be activated under the request that was approved by the Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, according to Capt. Tinashe Machona, a public affairs officer for the Guard.

The Guard members will be helping MPD “through the lifecycle of this event,” acting police Chief Robert Contee III said Monday during a press conference. “They will be deployed to assist us with crowd management, as well as traffic control in our nation’s capital,” he said. “That will allow for the police officers to focus on anyone whose intent on instigating, agitating or participating in violence in our city.”

Supporters of the president organized the rallies after he tweeted last month that a “big protest” will take place Wednesday, when Congress convenes to certify the Electoral College’s results of the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Trump has claimed that widespread voter fraud tossed the victory to President-elect Joseph R. Biden.

Chief Contee said police have received information about “some individuals intent on bringing firearms.” He said people will be arrested if they violate the District’s law prohibiting firearms at a protest or within 1,000 feet of a protest.

Signs about the gun law have been posted throughout the downtown area.

Miss Bowser is urging residents to stay away from the downtown area Tuesday and Wednesday, and not to engage with people “seeking confrontation.”

“We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city,” the mayor said.

The National Park Service has approved at least two requests for First Amendment demonstrations this week.

The Eighty Percent Coalition will be allowed to host 5,000 people at the Rally to Revival in Freedom Plaza on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the conservative group Women for America First will host up to 5,000 people at its March for Trump in the Ellipse.

Previous pro-Trump demonstrations have turned violent at times when supporters and counterprotesters clashed. At least four people were stabbed and several arrests were made at rallies during the weekend of Dec. 12.

MPD also is investigating “potential hate crimes” linked to videos from the mid-December rallies posted to social media that showed people burning Black Lives Matter banners in front of Black churches.

On Monday, several businesses boarded up their windows, including the restaurant Pret A Manger and Akridge, a real estate agency, both of which are steps away from Freedom Plaza.

Meanwhile, Hotel Harrington and Harry’s Bar, both of which have been popular with the far-right group Proud Boys and other Pro-Trump supporters during demonstrations, will be closed Tuesday through Thursday.

“While we cannot control what happens outside of the hotel, we are taking additional steps to protect the safety of our visitors and employees,” the hotel said in a press release last week.

Enrique Tarrio, leader of the far-right Proud Boys, reportedly was arrested Monday on charges of destruction of property after he arrived in the District, the New York Times reported.

Earlier, Mr. Tarrio had said the Proud Boys will “turn out in record numbers” Wednesday and they will not be dressed in their traditional black and yellow attire.

“We will be incognito and we will spread across downtown D.C. in smaller teams,” he said, adding that they “might” dress in all black.

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