Demonstrators at the Justice for J6 rally blasted Republicans in Congress for their refusal to attend Saturday’s demonstration billed by organizers as a civil rights assembly.
The rally, led by former Trump campaign operative Matt Braynard, was attended by roughly 400 to 450 protesters and members of the press, but sitting lawmakers were noticeably absent.
Though the event brought in far fewer people than anticipated, the absence of any officeholders was met with fury by attendants who thought members were ignoring their cause.
“Where’s McCarthy? Where’s McConnell? They’re all useless,” one demonstrator in the crowd yelled.
Steve Merkel of Baltimore who attended the rally called Republicans “cowards,” and said it was wrong that no one came out to support nonviolent offenders charged over the riot.
“They’re cowards because they’re not standing up for those constitutional rights,” Mr. Merkel said. “They’re supposed to be protected. I call them political animals who are afraid of bad media coverage.”
Republicans distanced themselves from the event, which was viewed largely by Washington as a potential security threat.
Upon news of the rally, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said earlier this month that he did not expect any of his members to make an appearance.
GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Bob Good of Virginia are a handful of members who have raised concerns about the conditions of the District jail, which houses dozens of rioters.
Mr. Braynard and other speakers at the rally praised the lawmakers’ efforts by name, but some attendants said they were disappointed that none of them came.
“You see videos of Congresswoman Greene who went to the jail cell and stood outside, saying she wanted to get in and make sure things were OK, so they put on these shows that they care,” said Casey Crawford of Missouri.
Ms. Crawford added that she also understood there were certain pressures about the event being billed as being a potential security hazard, but stopped short of saying that’s an excuse not to show up.
“There was a lot of news out there saying ‘false flag’ and telling people not to go, but don’t take the position that you want to stand up for people and then hide in an office. It’s really upsetting none of them came,” Ms. Crawford said.
Mr. Braynard praised two of his guest speakers, whom he called brave for making an appearance at the event.
Mike Collins, a GOP candidate for an open seat in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, and Joe Kent, a Republican challenging GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler — who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump — of Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, spoke at the rally in support of the Jan. 6 defendants.
Suzanne Monk, who sang the National Anthem at the rally, said she’s been working to get in contact with members on the issues raised about the jail conditions.
Ms. Monk said she personally knows three people who are being held at the District of Columbia jail, and has heard back from Mrs. Greene’s office, at least, about her concerns.
Ms. Monk said she wasn’t entirely disappointed that she and others weren’t at the event, and she would rather see them trying to help out on Capitol Hill.
“I’m very proud of them for doing it because that is the right thing for Congress to do,” Ms. Monk said. “When the people who they represent call up and say, ‘hey, we’re concerned,’ your job is to go and take a look. And they’re trying to do that.”
The Jan. 6 riot resulted in the deaths of five people, including four pro-Trump demonstrators and a Capitol Police officer who died of a stroke.
Two other Capitol Police officers died by suicide in the days following the riot.
More than 600 people were charged in connection to the riot, though most have been released while awaiting trial.
Roughly 60 defendants remain held in federal custody awaiting trial or sentencing hearings, according to the Associated Press.