- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2022

Law enforcement agencies in Washington are ramping up security measures for dueling candlelight vigils on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

A U.S. Capitol Police spokesperson said the agency is prepared to handle another mob-like attack if it were to occur but said “we hope to never have to.”

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger says the agency has been grappling with major staffing shortages and thousands of threats against members of Congress, but it is making progress fixing “critical deficiencies.”

“We’re going to get tested again,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this week that his department is operating at a “heightened level of vigilance, because we are at a heightened level of threat” in general However, he said the department is not aware of any credible threats linked to the Jan. 6 anniversary.

Dueling candlelight vigils hosted by groups on opposite sides of the political spectrum are scheduled near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

Movement Catalyst, a liberal grassroots organization, is expecting up to 500 attendees at its candlelight vigil on Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. between 3rd Street and 4th Street on the National Mall.

The vigil is “for democracy in remembrance of the attack on democracy that occurred on Jan. 6,” according to the National Park Service public gathering permit.

“The rally on the mall will involve speeches by members of Congress and organization leaders and singing,” the permit states.

After the rally, participants are planning to cross 3rd Street onto Union Square and hold a candlelight vigil around the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

The group describes itself as “a social movement support hub that helps build and execute campaigns and actions to fight for transformational change,” according to its website.

Meanwhile, the conservative group Look Ahead America is set to hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. outside the D.C. Jail, where several accused rioters are being held.

The group is expecting up to 50 attendees, according to the event permit submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Executive Director Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, said the goal of the vigil is “to stand in solidarity with all of those who have been politically persecuted and in remembrance of Ashli Babbitt and Rosanne Boyland.”

Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and Trump supporter was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer as she and others tried to break through a set of doors and windows leading to the House chamber. Boyland died from a drug overdose while in crowd outside the Capitol, according to the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office.

Similar vigils are being planned in several other states, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, according to Look Ahead America’s website.

The organization said they intend to help “millions of rural and blue-collar patriotic Americans who are disaffected and disenfranchised from the nation’s corridors of power” by educating and registering them to vote.

A Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson said the agency will follow its usual protocol for First Amendment demonstrations, which includes “monitoring and assessing” activities on Thursday in collaboration with local and federal law enforcement partners.

“MPD members will have a visible presence around the city during this time,” the spokesperson said. “MPD encourages the public to remain vigilant, if you see something, say something.”

Mica Soellner contributed to this story.

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

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