The Department of Homeland Security has alerted law enforcement agencies of a “small” amount of online threats of violence before the Saturday rally supporting jailed Jan. 6 Capitol rioters, according to news reports.
Homeland Security sent an internal bulletin this week warning of “small number of recent online threats of violence” linked to the rally, including “online discussions encouraging violence the day before the rally,” CBS News reported Friday.
The Thursday bulletin reportedly states DHS has assessed that some individuals involved in or opposed to the rally “may seek to engage in violence” but the agency lacks “indications of a specific or credible plot associated with the event.”
DHS also said that a counter-rally planned at Freedom Plaza Saturday afternoon increases the possibility of clashes, CBS reported.
“Lone offenders and small groups of individuals can mobilize to violence with little-to-no warning, particularly in response to confrontational encounters with perceived opponents or calls for escalation by key influencers,” the bulletin reportedly said. “The likely use of encrypted or closed communication platforms by those seeking to commit violence challenges law enforcement’s ability to identify and disrupt potential plotting.”
The department also said there have been online discussions about storming the U.S. Capitol the night before the rally and kidnapping a member of Congress, as well as using the rally to “target local Jewish institutions, elected officials and liberal churches,” according to CBS.
The news comes as police in the District of Columbia ramp up security measures ahead of the rally — including reinstalling a fence around the U.S. Capitol — in an effort to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 riot at the building.
The rally is billed as an event to demand “justice” for the more than 600 people charged after rioters stormed the Capitol building in an effort to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory over then-President Trump.
Both the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated, and the Capitol Police has asked for the National Guard to be ready “should the need arise.” An emergency declaration has been authorized to allow Capitol Police to deputize outside law enforcement officers as special officers during the Saturday rally.
Melissa Smislova, a top intelligence official at DHS, said the agency expects about 700 people will attend, NBC News reported Wednesday.
Top local police officials are scheduled to hold a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss security preparations for the rally, which is set to begin at noon on Saturday on the west side of the Capitol grounds.