Before the September 18 rally, fencing around the U.S. Capitol building was reinstalled and law enforcement officials increased security measures in preparation, hoping to prevent an instance similar to January 6, 2021.
Late on Wednesday, workers in construction vests hoisted the fencing around the Capitol as local police officers prepared for the rally. The “Justice for J6” demonstration was organized to protest the detainment of the citizens arrested in connection with the January 6 riot, which took place in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Over 600 people linked to that day are currently being detained and around 60 have pleaded guilty, generally to misdemeanors. Matt Braynard, former Trump campaign staffer, organized the event. Braynard said he believed roughly 700 protestors would attend to show their support in the fight for justice for those incarcerated, who he calls “political prisoners.”
The Associated Press obtained a Homeland Security intelligence report warning that potential attendees’ social media posts included threats to kidnap “an identified member of Congress” as well as “other references to violence.” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger felt confident, however, that both the Capitol and local police forces were better equipped for this demonstration.
He spoke at a press conference on Friday, saying, “There have been some threats of violence associated with this event tomorrow. We have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful, and if violence does occur we can stop it as quickly as possible. We are not going to tolerate violence.”
In addition to the fencing and barriers similar to what was installed following January 6, several police departments from nearby counties sent backup for the protest, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the request for 100 D.C. National Guard troops to be present if necessary (New York Post).
As for the “Justice for J6” event, it appears to have concluded without any major complications. One man was arrested prior to the start of the rally for the possessing a knife on Capitol grounds, and another was detained, about an hour after the first arrest, for carrying a handgun. Reports claim that the man with the handgun was an undercover agent.
Braynard was sure to lay out “ground rules” at the opening of the protest. “There are uniformed officers here who I demand that you respect, you are kind to, you’re respectful to and you’re obedient to. They’re here to keep us safe.” He condemned the violence of January 6, but still called for transparency in the investigation of the riot.
“Anybody who engaged in that kind of violence or property destruction that day deserves to be tried with a speedy trial.” He continued, “This is about the many people who were there that day who have not been charged with violence, not been accused of assaulting a police officer or destroying property and the disparate treatment they received.” The U.S. Capitol Police reported 400 to 450 attendees at the event (ABC News).