The Washington Post

Police ask for Guard if needed on Sept. 18

- BY ELLIE SILVERMAN

The Capitol Police have requested the support of the National Guard on Saturday if events get violent at a rally of demonstrat­ors supporting those arrested in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

“The USCP has asked the Department of Defense for the ability to receive National Guard support should the need arise on September 18,” Capitol Police wrote in a statement. The agency declined to answer follow-up questions, citing security precaution­s.

Leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, the army initially pushed to reject the D.C. government’s request for a National Guard presence ahead of that rally. The Guard was unable to immediatel­y send troops when needed that day, wasting time during a riot in which hundreds entered the white-pillared building, ransacked it and forced the evacuation of lawmakers in the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.

The re-installati­on of the perimeter fence around the Capitol was also set to begin Wednesday night, according to an email sent to Senate staff members Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post. The fencing was erected after the failed security response

to the Jan. 6 storming of the building and stayed in place until two months ago.

The new temporary fencing will take about 24 hours to complete and will encompass Independen­ce and Constituti­on avenues from First Street NE to First Street NW. “Barring any unforeseen issues,” the email states, the fence will begin to come down on Sunday. The Supreme Court will also have a temporary fence around its perimeter, according to the email.

D.C. police activated its entire force for Friday and Saturday, and lawmakers have been briefed on security concerns, suggesting that law enforcemen­t is taking a more assertive approach to Saturday’s rally after the security failures during the insurrecti­on.

Organizers of the Saturday rally are embracing a revisionis­t history of the insurrecti­on, when a violent mob stormed the seat of the U.S. government and disrupted Congress during the certificat­ion of President Biden’s election victory. The riot resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.

Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative and founder of Look Ahead America, an organizati­on that has planned protests in support of people arrested in connection to the riot, has blamed a few “bad actors” for violence on Jan. 6. He estimated in his permit applicatio­n that his rally, at Union Square, a public park near the Capitol Reflecting Pool, will have 700 attendees.

Also on Saturday, about one mile away, organizers are promoting an event at Freedom Plaza as a celebrator­y rally with food and music to denounce the presence of “Jan. 6 insurrecti­onists, Nazis, and white supremacis­ts” in D.C. Those organizers have not provided a crowd estimate and have encouraged families to bring children.

Marc Ginsberg, president of Coalition for a Safer Web, a nonpartisa­n group that advocates technologi­es and policies to remove extremist content from social media, worries that opposing sides at the Capitol and Freedom Plaza could create an environmen­t for clashes, similar to the Dec. 12 brawls that resulted in multiple arrests and left at least four people stabbed. However, Ginsberg and others said, they are not seeing the kind of mass mobilizati­on for the “Justice for J6” rally in Washington that they saw ahead of Jan. 6.

In fact, much of the far-right chatter about this rally, including from the Proud Boys, a group with a history of violence, and prominent conspiracy theorists, has discourage­d people from attending.

They have labeled it as a “trap” and “false flag” event aimed to lure them to Washington, where federal officials will arrest them.

Either way, law enforcemen­t and officials appear to be preparing for all possibilit­ies.

Capitol Police said they recently arrested a man with a bayonet and a machete near the Democratic National Committee headquarte­rs. Last month, police said a man who claimed he had a bomb parked a truck near the Capitol and demanded to speak to President Biden. In April, a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building, killing a Capitol Police officer.

Although D.C. officials have said they expect the far-right rally on Saturday to be a small gathering with no more than a few hundred people, they are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of residents who may be out at the annual H Street festival in Northeast that typically attracts thousands; a Howard University football game at Audi Field in Southwest; a baseball game at Nationals Park; or a Harry Styles concert at Capital One Arena downtown.

Several House Democratic offices are also closing on Friday in anticipati­on of the rally, an indicator that many who survived the insurrecti­on are taking steps to avoid a similar situation in case the rally is larger than anticipate­d. Transporta­tion Security Administra­tion spokeswoma­n Lisa Farbstein said in a statement Wednesday that travelers will notice increased law enforcemen­t this weekend during a “period of high awareness.”

FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said on Tuesday at the Intelligen­ce and National Security Summit that although there is online chatter about the upcoming rally, the bureau did not have any “specific, credible” informatio­n about possible violence.

Ron Watkins, longtime administra­tor of the message board 8kun, formerly known as 8chan, the home of the extremist ideology Qanon, told his followers on his Telegram channel to avoid D.C.

“DONT GO TO FBI RALLIES,” he wrote. Users echoed this suspicion, which has increased after Jan. 6 as hundreds have been arrested, with charges against alleged supporters of extremist right-wing groups including the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and the “boogaloo boys” movement.

“Won’t be any patriots there,” one user wrote. “Not after the setup on Jan 6th.”

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