Police broke up protesters and counterprotesters at Saturday’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally around the Capitol building, moving people apart before fights could break out.
The counterprotesters carried homemade signs – one read loser which was a reference to Donald Trump, its carrier said – and ‘Black Lives Matter’ flags. One small group stood on a street corner, blaring the song ‘FTD (F*** Donald Trump).’
Turnout appeared lower than expected ahead of the rally’s start time. There appeared to be just a few hundred people there for the purpose of the event, which was to show support for the Trump supporters facing federal charges for January 6th’s insurrection.
Mixed in with them were counterprotesters and dozens of members of the media. There was a heavy police presence, including plain-clothes cops, officers in riot gear, and officers on bikes and horseback.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, U.S. Capitol Police chief Tom Manger said his biggest concern was fights breaking out between the two groups. He said they had intelligence that indicated three counterprotest groups would attend, one of which has a history of violence.
Officers stepped in to remove the counterprotesters as necessary. The organizers for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally had the permit for the area. Around 700 people were predicted to attend.
The rally began with a ’round of applause’ and ‘prayers’ for the police officers on duty at the event.
Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign operative who organized the rally, asked the attendees to be respectful to the police and members of the media covering the rally.
He said the event was to protest those being held in federal custody for their actions on January 6th, calling them ‘political prisoners.’
‘This isn’t about President Trump or Biden or your political party. This is about human rights and civil rights,’ he said, arguing that many of the almost 600 people facing charges aren’t being charged with violent behavior.
The crowd yelled ‘let them in go’ in support of the January 6th rioters.
A counter-protestor is escorted out of the rally site by police officers as supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol attend the ‘Justice for J6’ rally
Counter-protestors shout at rally attendees
Police officers escort a counter-protester out of the rally area
A counter-protestor (at right) argues with one of the rally attendees, who was there to show support for those facing federal charges for their actions on January 6th
A plain clothes police officer steps in between protesters and counterprotesters
A demonstrator talks to members of the media ahead of the rally
People gather in front of the Capitol for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally
U.S. Capitol Police officers patrol the streets around the Capitol building
Matt Braynard, the organizer behind the rally and a former Trump campaign staffer, speaks during the rally
Cara Castronuova, a pro-Trump boxer, addresses the crowd
Police push counter protesters away from the rally site
Cara Castronuova, a pro-Trump boxer who appeared on season 11 of The Biggest Loser, co-hosted the rally and invoked the names of Trump supporters Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed in the Capitol on January 6th, and Roseanne Boyland, who died after losing consciousness in the crush of the mob that day.
‘Ashli Babbitt, Roseanne Boyland,’ Castronuova shouted repeatedly during her remarks.
She also pointed out the lack of violence.
‘Take a look around: Do you see an insurrection,’ she said as the crowd cheered.
Earlier Saturday morning, hundreds of U.S. Capitol Police, along with DC, Virginia, Maryland officers and federal law enforcement, lined up around the Capitol building.
Law enforcement is on high alert after being caught off guard on January 6th, when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building.
In preparation for the rally – and in a strong show of defense – officials assembled at 7:15 am on Saturday morning to hear from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and then take their positions around the four-acre Capitol campus.
‘We got this covered,’ said DC Metro Police Chief Robert Contee, who was on site for the event.
An eight-foot high, non scalable security fence is back in place around the Capitol building. Dump trucks were brought in to park along the streets as an additional barrier. Green National Guard vehicles mingled with police cars; officers in black swat uniforms carried their gear on their backs and riot shields lay at the ready.
Inside the Capitol building, a number of police officers patrolled the hallways. Black gear bags and riots shields were stacked up by the various entrances to the building.
The organizer of the ‘Justice for J6’ rally said it would be a peaceful protest, objecting to the federal charges being faced by the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol to try and stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Manger said on Friday, however, there have been threats of violence.
‘It’s tough to say whether they’re credible or not. We don’t know with any certainty,’ he said. ‘But what we do know is that the chatter we heard prior to January 6th, many of those threats turned out to be, in fact, credible. So we’re not taking any chances.’
U.S. Capitol Police, along with local and federal law enforcement, lined up early Saturday morning to hear from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger
Police stage at a security fence ahead of Saturday’s rally
Dozens of dump trucks form a barrier around the Capitol
An eight-foot high, non scalable security fence is in place around the Capitol
A U.S. Capitol police officer speaks with a counter-protester near the Capitol
Supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol arrive for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol
Manger said the likeliest possibility for violence at the rally will be between protesters and any counter-protesters who may show up, but that law enforcement would not allow things to escalate.
‘We´re not going to tolerate violence, and we will not tolerate criminal behavior of any kind,’ Manger said. ‘The American public and members of Congress have an expectation that we protect the Capitol. And I am confident that the plan we have in place will meet that expectation.’
Nearly 700 Trump supporters and far-right activists were expected on the West lawn of the Capitol to show their support for the January 6th rioters.
Nearly 600 January 6th people are facing federal charges storming the Capitol, committing violence against the police, and causing destruction in the building. Thus far, almost 50 people have pleaded guilty to charges related to the violence, nine admitting to committing felonies.
Lawmakers are not in Washington D.C. And, it being a Saturday, few staff will be in the Capitol and its surrounding office buildings.
Information about September 18 ‘Justice for J6’ rally
Location: Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the section of the West Front containing the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and Capitol reflecting pool
Start time: 12 noon ET
Leaders of event: Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign official who organized the rally
He will co-host alongside Cara Castronuova, a pro-Trump boxer who appeared on season 11 of The Biggest Loser
Speakers: Joe Kent, who’s challenging GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington state; she is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump
Mike Collins, a Republican running for Congress in Georgia
Family members of people held on January 6 charges
On Friday, USCP officers outlined the preparations they took to be ready for the rally even as they declined to go into details as not to reveal any sensitive security information.
The intent was to instill a sense of confidence and security going into the event. Officials are determined not to repeat the intelligence and planning mistakes revealed in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection.
Manger said their intelligence indicated three different groups – one of whom had a history of clashes – were talking of attending. He did not specify the groups.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report warned of social media posts that discussed the possibly of storming the Capitol Friday night. One user also ‘commented on kidnapping an identified member of Congress,’ the document said, though the lawmaker wasn’t identified by name in the report.
Manger declined to comment on the report.
Ahead of Saturday’s rally, Capitol Hill has turned into a fortress. Security fencing is back up around the perimeter, riot shields are ready, the National Guard is on stand by and DC Metro Police will activate their entire force on Saturday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved 100 National Guardsmen to be on standby at the DC Armory for support on Saturday if they are needed. They won’t be armed but will be equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.
Manger wouldn’t give an indication of how seriously they are taking threats of violence.
‘It’s tough to say whether they’re credible or not it,’ he said of the threats. ‘We don’t know with any certainty.’
He added: ‘We’re not taking any chances.’
The capitol police force and its partners in the region – including the DC National Guard and DC Metro Police – have held multiple exercises, including physical ones and table top drills, to prepare for Saturday, according to Sean Gallagher, an assistant chief for USCP.
‘Our officers are ready,’ he said. ‘We are hoping and expecting a peaceful event this weekend, but our operational plan is scalable, so that we will be ready to handle anything that occurs.’
Supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol walk past a counter-protest sign as they arrive for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally
Matt Braynard, organizer of the ‘Justice for J6’ rally, said those arrested on January 6th are ‘political prisoners’
Police stage at a security fence around the Capitol on Saturday morning
A jogger runs past an armoured vehicle outside the U.S. Capitol on Saturday
Police vehicles ready ahead of Saturday’s rally
Police stand guard in front of the U.S. Capitol
But the organizer of the rally, a former Trump campaign operative, said it would be a peaceful event.
Matt Braynard, who is also the executive director of Look Ahead America, said the intent was to draw attention to the Trump supporters facing federal charges for their role on January 6th.
‘We look forward to having a very safe, peaceful expression of our First Amendment rights,’ he said Friday morning on C-SPAN’s ‘Washington Journal.’
He noted ‘there’s no intent for violence on our side.’
He also said he’s hired private security for rally.
‘Yes a diplomatic security team but they’re looped in with the Capitol Police Department and many of them are themselves, you know, ex cops,’ he said.
Manger said they’ve had ‘courtesy’ conversations with rally organizers and he was aware they hired private security.
Braynard said his private security team would not be armed.
He also said he’s asking attendees to film any encounters they have at the rally.
‘I believe it’s my responsibility to do everything I can do to keep every one of our attendees safe and to do that, we’re asking when people leave to leave in large groups, we’re asking for people to, if you see anything at all suspicious to somebody acting oddly – look we’ve all got television studios, right here in our pocket, whip it out and start recording,’ he said.
Donald Trump defended the January 6th rioters being prosecuted for their storming of the Capitol building – above the former president speaking at a rally outside of the White House on the morning of January 6th
Republicans are distancing themselves from the event. No GOP lawmaker is scheduled to speak and only two Republican House candidates are on the agenda.
Far right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend. Members of those groups were among those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and face some of the toughest federal charges as a result.
The January 6th riot resulted in five dead. Four police officers working that day committed suicide and more than 100 police officers were injured. The rioters did more than $1 million in damage to the Capitol.
Braynard said he organized Saturday’s ‘Justice for J6’ rally to draw attention to the federal charges that almost 600 MAGA supporters who stormed the Capitol are facing. He called them ‘political prisoners.’
He is part of a group of Trump supporters attempting to rewrite the narrative of the violence and panic of January 6th. Braynard argued during his C-SPAN appearance the MAGA protesters merely visited the Capitol on that day, walking between the security ropes. Video footage from the day shows the violence committed against law enforcement and the destruction in the building.
‘We’ve condemned all violence. We think that anybody that committed violence against police officers or destroy property at the Capitol Building on January 6 should be given a speedy trial,’ Braynard said, even as he argued the protesters didn’t do such things.
At least 30 people from January 6th are jailed in Washington. The rest are in facilities across the country.
Braynard argued the January 6 rioters are being treated much more harshly than other protesters, particularly those arrested for championing progressive causes.
‘There’s a big disparity between the way those people are being treated and these people are being treated despite engage in exactly the same behavior and facing the same charges. It’s not about what they did, but about what they believe and that’s what makes them political prisoners,’ he said.
Braynard previously said he asked attendees not to wear political t-shirts or carry signs for a particular political candidate.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump warned that Saturday’s rally is a ‘setup’.
‘On Saturday, that’s a setup,’ Trump told the Federalist. ‘If people don’t show up they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a lack of spirit.’ And if people do show up they’ll be harassed.’
His comments come after he defended the January 6th rioters being prosecuted for their storming of the Capitol building, saying they were being ‘persecuted so unfairly’ for protesting the ‘rigged presidential election.’
‘Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!’ Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him as a result of massive election fraud. He faced a second impeachment trial – and was acquitted – on charges he helped incite the January 6th riot.
He gave a fiery speech outside the White House on January 6th, shortly before his MAGA supporters stormed Capitol Hill.
But he’s not taking the same steps in the lead up to Saturday’s rally. The former president will spend the Saturday at a golf tournament at his Bedminster, N.J., club, the New York Times reported.