- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2021

The fence blocking the U.S. Capitol from visitors will return nearly two months after it was removed, as part of the security measures for a Saturday rally backing hundreds of people accused of storming the building on Jan. 6 in support of then-President Trump.

The fence will be reerected one or two days before the rally, which is expected to draw hundreds of people. “If everything goes well, it will come down very soon after,” said Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger

He said the fence is a temporary measure “to ensure everyone’s safety” during the right-wing rally, and he urged “anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home.”

The fence is one of several security precautions the Capitol Police force is taking in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot, which left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured and caused more than $1 million in damages.

The police said Monday that an emergency declaration had been authorized to allow the agency to deputize outside law enforcement officers as U.S. Capitol Police special officers during the demonstration. 

The department has been holding planning meetings for the rally and sharing “important intelligence information” with officers, other law enforcement agencies and Congress.

Police are preparing for the possibility of weapons at the rally, two people familiar with the preparations told The Associated Press. Officers are monitoring hotel bookings, flights, car rental reservations and buses chartered to bring groups to the nation’s capital. 

The announcement was made hours after Chief Manger and other security officials briefed congressional leaders on the preparations. Leaving the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said he believed law enforcement is “ready for whatever might happen” on Saturday. 

“I believe that they are well-prepared, thorough, professional, and I think they are better prepared than people were before Jan. 6,” Mr. Schumer said.

The Capitol Police Board, a three-member panel of congressional security officials, approved the plan Monday to temporarily install the fence around the inner perimeter of the Capitol complex. 

“We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence,” Mr. Manger said.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said last week that law enforcement should take the rally “very seriously.”

“I think they should take it very seriously. In fact, they should take it more seriously than they took the same sort of intelligence that they likely saw on January 5,” Mr. McCabe, now a CNN contributor, told the cable news outlet on Sept. 6.

“Justice for J6” rally organizer Matt Braynard, who served as data director for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said the “peaceful” protest is aimed at raising awareness of accusations of harsh treatment against those jailed on charges linked to the Capitol riot. Some have said they have been abused and subjected to excessive solitary confinement.

More than 600 people have been arrested in connection with the riot. Many have been released while they await trial, but others are still detained.

The Justice Department has denied accusations of harsh treatment.

The rally is set to begin at noon Saturday in Union Square. Organizers say similar rallies are planned near 13 state capitol buildings on the same day.

Members of far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are reportedly planning to attend the Washington rally. 

Some members and associates of the groups are facing charges related to the riot, including accusations that they came to Washington ready for violence and that they conspired to block Congress’ certification of Joseph R. Biden’s election win over Mr. Trump.

Officials began putting up the first fence the day after the Jan. 6 attack. At one point, the barrier encompassed a roughly 3-mile perimeter around the Capitol complex and was patrolled by thousands of armed National Guard troops.

The fence turned into a point of contention among officials and residents until it was taken down in mid-July. Some argued that the fence was necessary to limit access to the building and discourage breaches, but others said it deterred tourists and blocked emergency vehicles and evacuation routes.

Capitol Police said the decision to remove the fence on July 11 was “based on the current threat environment and recent enhancements to the USCP’s response capabilities.”

Tourists visiting the Capitol grounds Monday said they understood the need to bring back the fence.

“You can’t blame them for putting the fence up,” said Kenneth Sanchez, 40, of California, who was visiting the Capitol grounds for the first time.

“They must have their reasons, and they don’t really have to explain to the public,” he said. “I wouldn’t pretend to understand what they feel needs to be done to keep themselves and the Capitol building safe because the reality is, people should treat this like it’s their church — not a place to carry on loudly or violently.”

Stephen Smith, 66, of North Carolina and his wife were riding bicycles around the Capitol grounds when they stopped to take a photo in front of the building.

Mr. Smith told The Washington Times that he understands why authorities are bringing back the fence. 

“They’re all scared of what happened on the 6th, so I can understand it,” Mr. Smith said.

He said it is important that the fencing will not be permanent.

“It should be free to all the people,” he said. “It shouldn’t be any restrictions, and the people that abuse it is what’s caused the problems that we’re having — having to put the fence up.”

Liz Kofoed, 75, of California said she thinks if the rally “turns out to be peaceful and not as bad as some people expect, maybe it won’t be necessary to put up the fence” again.

She said it should, however, be part of security measures for other rallies if it is necessary “to avoid a repeat” of Jan. 6.

A few hours later, Mr. Manger announced security measures for the weekend rally, which include re-erecting the fence around the Capitol that had been put up after the riot and later removed nearly two months ago.

The barrier will be resurrected one or two days before the rally, which is expected to draw hundreds of people. If all “goes well,” he said, it would be removed “very soon after.”

U.S. Capitol Police also said an emergency declaration has been authorized to allow the agency to deputize outside law enforcement officers as USCP Special Officers during the demonstration. 

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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