‘We are not going to tolerate violence’
Washington and state capitols across the country braced Saturday morning for “Justice for J6” protests aimed at calling attention to what organizers say is the unfair treatment of people charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Authorities set up fencing surrounding the Capitol and Supreme Court. Then, they held “tabletop” exercises to devise a strategy for dealing with violence and promised visibility across the entire city.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday to reporters at a joint press conference with Washington Metropolitan Police Department that violence was unacceptable. We will not tolerate any criminal behavior.
More than 600 people have been arrested in the eight-plus months since the attack, more than 50 of whom have pleaded guilty to a variety of federal crimes and six have been found guilty in court, according to the Justice Department.
To the extent they were unprepared for the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, police indicated, they are ready to prevent and respond to illegal activity Saturday — whether it is perpetrated by primary demonstrators or counterprotesters.
Matt Braynard is the executive director at Look Ahead America, and organizer of the rally. He wrote on Twitter that he expected “a 100 per cent peaceful event in support for the nonviolent offender… who have been charged.”
The rally’s potential chaos made it politically poisonous for Republicans. Many of them believe that the attack on the Capitol was motivated by election fraud.
Trump, who was impeached by the House in January for his role in inciting the violence, said Thursday that rioters have been “persecuted” by the Justice Department.
Trump stated in a statement that “our hearts and minds are with people being persecuted such unfairly relating the January 6th protest regarding the Rigged Presidential Election.” It has been proven that, in addition to all other things, we have a dual-tiered system for justice. But justice will prevail in the end!
But the former president, who was acquitted by the Senate, and other Republican officials are keeping their distance from the rallies, which have law enforcement authorities on high alert for a repeat of the Jan. 6 melee. He, along with no member of Congress, is not expected to attend Washington’s main protest.
Trump described the entire affair as a “setup” to increase arrests or criminal charges. His message can be heard in extremist forums online that served as nerve centers for Jan. 6’s insurrection. As a result, the numbers at Saturday’s rally may be smaller than the original protest-turned-attack.
Union Square is the rally spot in Washington. It’s a small, open-air park located just west of Capitol Hill. Look Ahead America is the organization sponsoring these protests, and organizers have put rules on their website. The rules state that you should not travel in groups, “do no wear or bring any paraphernalia belonging to political, candidate or other organization,” and “be respectful of our security personnel and law enforcement.”
The Justice Department says that about 140 police officers — from the Capitol Police and Washington Metropolitan Police Department forces — were assaulted in January.
Robert Contee of the Metropolitan Police said that there were “No Gun Zones” signs posted near the protest area. The sign also reminds that firearms cannot be taken within 1000 feet.
According to Contee, “The district gun laws are being enforced.”
According to Look Ahead America, firearm restrictions can vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Satellite protests have been planned for 17 statehouses in addition federal buildings.
Manger stated that he was focused on legal demonstrations and free speech at the U.S. Capitol.
Capitol Police confirmed that while the National Guard is available for assistance in the security of the Capitol’s perimeter should it be required, they would not be deployed otherwise.
Manger explained that there is a “strong plan” to make sure the Capitol remains peaceful, and added that police officers will be available to help “if violence occurs.”