Nancy Pelosi condemns upcoming ‘Justice for J6’ rally
Washington, DC is hunkered down in advance of a protest on behalf of people arrested for their alleged part in the US Capitol insurrection at the start of this year. The “Justice for J6” rally, organised by a onetime Trump campaign staffer, is ostensibly a protest against the “persecution” of the 600-plus people who have been taken into custody. It is seen by some as part of a broader right-wing attempt to rewrite the narrative of the attack on the Capitol as a mostly peaceful incident, with the participants reframed as simply naive citizens earnestly concerned about the 2020 election.
However, there are concerns that the protest could attract extremist groups with other, more nefarious grievances – including some of the violent actors who joined the insurrection itself. That said, experts in extremism have reported that organisations such as the Proud Boys are telling their members to stay away from the protest. The organisers insist it will be a peaceful event – but the US Capitol Police are taking no chances.
Follow live updates on the event below.
Welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the “Justice for J6” protest at the US Capitol. Stay tuned for updates.
What the “Justice for J6” rally could look like
Today’s protest has been put together by Matt Braynard, a right-wing activist who briefly worked on Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign, and who has made a name for himself advocating for the hundreds of people arrested since the insurrection. What has he been doing, and why?
Here’s an explainer.
Law enforcement have warned members of Congress and staff to avoid the event – even though many far-right groups are staying home
Online ‘chatter’ similar to January 6
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said at a news conference on Friday that it was difficult to say whether threats of violence for the Saturday event are credible, but “chatter” online and elsewhere has been similar to intelligence that was missed in January.
A permit for the protest allows 700 people. Manger said he believes the most likely possibility for for violence Saturday will involve clashes between the protesters and counter-protesters who are expected to show up.
Police are also preparing for the possibility that some demonstrators may arrive with weapons.
“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.”
Release of Capitol rioters?
Matt Braynard, a supporter of Trump’s false claims that his 2020 election defeat was the result of widespread fraud who is organizing the rally, said he hoped it would lead to the release of people charged with taking part in the Capitol riot on 6 January.
“What we really want to do is put a spotlight on the mistreatment of these individuals and encourage federal legislators to demand the Department of Justice deliver real justice to these people. And that means, in many cases, dropping charges,” Braynard said in an interview on C-SPAN.
Social media posts discuss the possibility of violence and ‘kidnap’
A Homeland Security intelligence report said social media posts discussed using violence ahead of the protest, as well as the possibility of kidnap. One social media user “commented on kidnapping an identified member of Congress,” reports the Associated Press. The person wasn’t identified by name in the intelligence report. As Congress is out of session there will no lawmakers expected in the building today.
“Other references to violence identified on social media include discussions of using the rally to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials, and ‘liberal churches,’” the Homeland Security report said.
U.S. Capitol Police tweet picture of team readying for the day ahead
U.S. Capitol Police posted a picture on Twitter of officers preparing for the protest this morning and swearing-in with law enforcement partners.
Trump says his heart is with those ‘persecuted’ after the January 6 riots
In a short statement posted to his website on Thursday, Donald Trump sent a message of support to protesters at today’s event, saying: “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!”
Mr Trump will not be attending the rally today, and is understood to be spending the day at a golf tournament in New Jersey instead. He reportedly told sources that he believed the event was a set-up aimed at damaging his reputation.
Smaller rallies set to take place around the country
Look Ahead America, the pro-Trump organization behind the plans for Saturday’s rally at the Capitol, says on their website that they will host simultaneous rallies at the sites of the federal courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, and outside of a Department of Justice building in Seattle.
Nearly a dozen more events are set to be held next Saturday, the 25 of September, in other state capitals including Phoenix, Richmond, and Austin.
“The purpose of these peaceful protests is for patriotic Americans to educate their state legislators on the power they have to give instructions to their state’s federal legislators. We have composed a draft resolution a state legislature can pass to inform US Senators and Representative to oppose the tyrannical and inhumane treatment of the January 6 political prisoners who have been targeted by the Department of Justice and the FBI,” declared the group’s executive director, Matt Braynard, in a statement.
The group claims that it plans to add additional rally dates and locations to the list in the near future.
Rally attendees outnumbered by law enforcement, media minutes before start
Moments before Saturday’s rally was set to begin, the Union Square area and surrounding blocks were swarmed with members of law enforcement, members of the media, and just over a hundred protesters in the area where the event was set to take place.
The lack of attendees suggests that most supporters of the 6 January attack on the Capitol heeded warnings on right wing sites including some Qanon conspiracy blogs suggesting that the event would either intentionally lead to the jailing of attendees or result in that occurring if violence broke out.
A number of counterprotesters were also in attendance, including one individual with a sign urging the House’s select commission on the Capitol attack to investigate a Pennsylvania state senator, Doug Mastriano, who is accused of spending thousands of dollars to bus attendees to the rally outside the White House (and subsequent mobbing of the Capitol) on 6 January.
Organizers seen enforcing anti-political message rule among attendees
Look Ahead America’s executive director Matt Braynard, one of the Justice for J6 rally’s organizers, was seen milling among the small crowd of protesters and directing an individual to take down a flag in support of former President Donald Trump.
Rally invitations stressed that the event was meant to be non-political in nature and urged attendees not to bring flags, signs, or clothing in support of either Mr Trump or President Joe Biden.
Mr Braynard walked a significant distance flanked by security to direct the man to take his flag down, suggesting that organisers are being vigilant in enforcing the rule.
“Do not wear or bring political, candidate, or another organization’s paraphernalia. This includes clothing or banners supportive of President Trump or President Biden,” reads the group’s website.
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