The U.S. Capitol is again surrounded by a fence, surveillance cameras have been installed and the National Guard has been asked to be on standby as police in Washington prepare for the “Justice for J6” rally this weekend.
“The United States Capitol Police is aware of concerning online chatter about a demonstration planned for September 18,” a spokesman said in a press release this week.
Both USCP and the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated and USCP has asked for the National Guard to be ready “should the need arise.” An emergency declaration has also been authorized to allow USCP to deputize outside law enforcement officers as special officers during the rally on Saturday.
The heightened security measures come as police aim to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Saturday’s event is billed as a rally to demand “justice” for the more than 600 people charged so far this year after rioters stormed the building in January in support of then-President Trump.
Event organizer Matt Braynard, who served as data director for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said participants in Saturday’s protest want to focus new attention on allegations that some of those jailed in connection with the January riot have been singled out for harsh and unfair treatment while in custody.
Mr. Braynard said the protest on the west side of the Capitol grounds will be “peaceful” and his top request for attendees “is to be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers.”
In a statement Thursday, Mr. Trump said “our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the rigged presidential election.”
Mr. Trump has continuously claimed that the 2020 presidential election was rigged in favor of President Biden and wrought with widespread voter fraud.
Aides for Mr. Trump, however, say that he has little interest in the rally planned by his former staffer and does not plan to attend, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Melissa Smislova, a top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency expects about 700 people will be at Saturday’s rally, NBC News reported Wednesday.
USCP 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.
MPD has announced numerous nearby street closures and no parking areas that go into effect on Saturday.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said the fence — which was first erected after Jan. 6 and taken down in July — is a temporary measure “to ensure everyone’s safety” during the rally.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Mr. Manger said this week. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, urged residents to “avoid” organizing or attending a counterprotest.
“Between the delta variant of COVID-19 and perhaps an unhinged supporter of the insurrection looking for a fight, it simply isn’t worth the risk,” Mr. Allen said on Wednesday. “Stay clear of the area and allow law enforcement to do their job.”
But not everyone is taking the councilman’s advice.
During the Saturday rally, The Good Trouble Cooperative says it is planning to “provide a gathering place for everyone who rejects fascism” at Freedom Plaza.
“We want our event to be a joyful showing of antifascist resistance,” the group tweeted on Wednesday. “We encourage all who reject fascism and White supremacy to join us in solidarity.”
The organization describes itself as a Black liberation community justice mutual aid group, according to its website.
The Justice for J6 rally is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday and 17 sister rallies are also scheduled outside state capitol buildings across the country.