United Kingdom

'Justice for J6' rally sees pro-Capitol riot protesters outnumbered by cops and press

A sparsely-attended 'Justice for J6' rally on Saturday featured more police officers and press than protesters as a few hundred demonstrators gathered in the shadow of the Capitol building to show support for the January 6th rioters who stormed it.

A heavy police presence - officers in riot gear, plain clothes police, law enforcement on bikes and horses - awaited the crowd. Also there were counterprotesters, who 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).'

Police broke up shouting matches between the two groups, moving people apart before fights could break out. There were no reports of violence amid fears the day could turn into another insurrection. One man with a knife was arrested on a weapons violation charge, with three others also taken into police custody over the course of the day.  

A man who was reported to have a gun was one of them. 'At 1:30 pm, someone spotted what appeared to be a handgun on a man in the crowd. The witness told USCP officers, who detained the suspect. At this time, it is not clear why the man was at the demonstration. Officers charged him with 40 U.S. Code § 5104 - Unlawful activities.,' USCP said. 

Additionally, officers stopped a vehicle along Louisiana Avenue and 'subsequently arrested two people for felony extraditable warrants out of Texas,' USCP said. 'One was for Possession of a Firearm. The other was for a probation violation.'

After the rally ended, as people were leaving, police broke up a pushing and shouting match between protesters and counterprotesters. U.S. Capitol Police said there were no arrests from the incident. 

Nearly 700 people were anticipated to attend the rally. Instead there appeared to be a few hundred people.  

U.S. Capitol Police said there were 'approximately 400 to 450 people were inside the protest area today (excluding law enforcement).' But they did not break down how many of those were there for the rally, how many were members of the media and how many were counterprotesters. 

About 400 to 450 people showed up at Saturday's 'Justice for J6' rally but many of them were members of the media and counterprotesters

Law enforcement removes a person from the rally site

Police try to separate counter-protestors from the protesters - one of law enforcement's biggest worries was clashes between the two groups

Police push back a counter-protestor

Washington Metropolitan Police and ATF Police greet each other on the East Plaza of the Capitol - there were several law enforcement agencies on duty Saturday 

A person wearing a Batman costume attended the rally

Hundreds of U.S. Capitol Police and federal law enforcement lined up around the Capitol building Saturday morning ahead of the rally

A person is detained by police for being in possession of a knife at Saturday's rally

Ahead of the event U.S. Capitol Police chief Tom Manger said his biggest concern was fights breaking out between the protesters and counterprotesters. 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. A scheduled counterprotest took place at Freedom Plaza, about a mile from the Capitol.

Police worried about breakout fights between Trump supporters and those that live in liberal Washington D.C. It was a busy day of events in the nation's capitol. In addition to the rally, the city hosted its annual H Street Festival, there was Howard University football game attended by Vice President Kamala Harris; the Washington Nationals had a home game; and there's a Harry Styles concert at Capital One Arena.

From the start, September 18 had a different feel from January 6th. Streets around the Capitol were closed off and the metro station near the building was closed. Law enforcement lined the streets around four-acre Capitol complex. Dump trucks were parked along the sidewalks to form additional barriers.

There were no elected officials at the rally, which lasted about an hour on a hot, muggy day. Congress was not in session. It being a Saturday, staff were not working the Capitol or its surrounding office buildings. No sitting member of Congress attended. Not even Donald Trump urged people to attend.

Instead the former president warned the rally was a 'set up' and many figures on the far-right urged people not to attend, calling it a trap.

The rally began with a 'round of applause' and 'prayers' for the police officers on duty at the event, which included U.S. Capitol Police, officers from D.C., Maryland and Virginia, U.S. Park Police, and federal agents.

Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign operative who organized the rally, asked the attendees to be respectful to law enforcement nd 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.  'USA, USA, USA,' was another popular chant. 

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 it was a peaceful event, slamming those who warned the day would get violent.

'Take a look around: Do you see an insurrection,' she said as the crowd cheered. 

'Peaceful protest. Not insurrection part II. Sorry media,' she yelled. 

She blamed the media for the lack of the turnout, saying those 'who watched the news this week who read the media were terrified to come here.'

USCP said there was one arrest during the rally - a man caught with a knife: 'At approximately 12:40 pm, USCP officers arrested a man, who had a knife, for a weapons violation,' the agency said.

Republicans distanced themselves from the event with no current sitting lawmakers attending. Two GOP House candidates did speak to the crowd.

Branyard said lawmakers didn't attend because the party leadership asked them not too - and he indicated the MAGA crowd would hold them accountable for that.

'Some of them seem to be more afraid of the political leadership up there than they are of their constituencies. I mean the entirely peaceful way,' he noted. 

'But you guys when you go back to your states, and hopefully attend some of the 17 or more state rallies we have coming up in the next couple of weeks, you got to remind them who they work for,' he added. 

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 was on high alert after being caught off guard on January 6th, when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building. They put on a strong show of defense Saturday. 

'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.  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.  

Manger said on Friday there had 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.' 

Police officers in riot gear line up around the Capitol during the rally

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

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  

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 were 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. 

He admitted threats to individual members of Congress have increased in recent days. 

'We have just, in the last few days, we've had a number of threats - specific threats - come in against specific members of Congress. And so we were going to handle those the same way we always handle those. And there's nothing different about the way we're going to deal with those, because of the rally tomorrow,' he said.

Additionally, House Sergeant at Arms William Walker, in a notice to members of Congress this week, urged lawmakers to stay away from the Capitol complex on Saturday and reminded them that security is available if they were traveling or had protests in their districts.  

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 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 armored 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

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.

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