The Justice for J6 rally, an event designed to make martyrs out of the violent insurrectionists that stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, was a fantastic failure as far as attendance goes. For all the weeks of media coverage leading into Saturday’s demonstration, fewer than 100 people bothered to show up for it. That’s even less than the estimated 700 people local and federal officials had warned might attend — and far less than the tens of thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump who gathered on the Capitol on that fateful day in January.
Rally organizers blamed the presence of so much law enforcement for the poor attendance. “Shame on the people and the system who put fear in the hearts of American citizens not to come out,” Cara Castronuova, a founder of Citizens Against Political Persecution and apparent celebrity fitness professional, told the crowd. It’s a convenient excuse — but the larger blame for stoking fear arguably falls on many of the major players behind the first rally distancing themselves from last weekend’s dud of a demonstration.
Although intelligence officials reportedly warned in early September that the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers were planning to attend the rally, both groups ultimately distanced themselves from the event. Shortly before entering jail, Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, said in an interview, “The Proud Boys will not be there.” Separately, a Proud Boys social media channel was noted for posting: “Sounds like bait” about the event with the added warning: “We aren’t going and you shouldn’t either.”
Fox News host Lauren Ingraham branded the rally “stupid” and argued that “many people” see the protest as “even a false flag operation.” The far-right commentator also noted, “Have any big-name conservatives signed on? Of course not. Obviously there’s nothing legitimate about it.”
Trump himself also pushed this narrative. “On Saturday, that’s a setup,” the former president told the Federalist in an interview before the rally. “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.”
Regardless of any of those pre-emptive excuses, the embarrassing truth remains not many people bothered to attend the rally and it did not result in Trump being magically reinstalled as president. For those of us who are into sanity, this is considered a mild win. However, no one can get too cheerful when an event fails mostly because the already paranoid were discouraged from attending by the even-more-paranoid conspiracy theorists leading them.
As much as I want to take glee in the Justice for J6 rally being a flop, it’s hard to when it still achieved one of its major aims. “Justice for J6” for never meant to be a protest so much as it was an oft-repeated phrase. The repetition means that Trumpists have managed to rebrand traitors as American heroes and victims of grave injustice in many circles. It has normalized a patently absurd point of view.
In a statement released last Thursday, Trump said of the rally and the people it’s designed for: “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 lost a presidential election he actively cheated through. And when he lost that election, he made up a lie about voter fraud that conveniently faulted Black people, one of his favorite topics of grievances over the course of his life. The lie got so big that it inspired a violent insurrection. It’s even bigger now and one poorly attended rally can’t change that.
And somehow, this man has not been arrested for his role in any of it. In fact, he not only feels cocky enough to champion insurrectionists, but he continues to tease another presidential bid. And the saddest part is he may have reason to be gleeful.
Congress still has yet to pass new voting rights legislation that would help curtail many of these repressive voting laws passed in GOP-controlled states in response to Trump’s claims of election fraud. There is not much hope for the long-delayed bipartisan police reform bill, either. If you recall, that’s why millions and millions of Americans took to the streets last summer. Trump, the man that hates two-tiered justice systems, wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act on BLM protestors at the time. Can you imagine what sort of injustices a man like him is capable of with another term?
Even if the J6 rally failed on Saturday, it did not prove that a racist conspiracy has any less potency in American politics. It just means that the major players always have to be involved during promo. That should give us all pause whenever the major players of the right plan to organize another rally in support of a dangerous lie.
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