Citing “concerning online chatter,” Capitol Police officials on Monday urged anyone considering violence to stay home instead of attending a Saturday rally in support of defendants arrested in connection with the deadly storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
The warning came as the Capitol Police Board voted Monday to reinstall a fence around the complex ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally scheduled for Sept. 18, because of concerns that hundreds might attend, including members of some extremist groups. The rally is organized by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, and his organization, Look Ahead America, which has demanded that the Justice Department drop charges against what the group calls “nonviolent protesters” facing charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.
The Capitol Police Board also issued an emergency declaration, which will allow the department to deputize outside law enforcement officers as United States Capitol Police special officers. Officials also plan to use recently installed camera technology for expanded coverage of the campus.
Braynard said in an interview that his group would be peaceful and that the rally would last a little longer than an hour.
“My first instruction to attendees is to be respectful and kind to law enforcement officers,” he said. “We’re not there to cause anybody any trouble.”
He added that on Tuesday he would be announcing the names of some “very significant speakers” who would appear at the Saturday event at the Capitol.
Of the decision to reinstall the fence, he said, “This is a political decision by the House leadership to intimidate people from attending.”
The steps taken to secure the Capitol mark a starkly different stance from the one security officials took before the Jan. 6 riot, when hundreds of Donald Trump supporters overwhelmed an unprepared Capitol Police force.
As a mob stormed the Capitol that day, about 140 police officers were injured, including 15 who were hospitalized, and several people died in connection with the riot, including officers who took their own lives in the days and months after responding to the assault.
Braynard has argued that the brutal attacks on police officers during the assault were the work of a “few bad apples” and accused the Biden administration of targeting the “peaceful Trump supporters who entered the Capitol with selective prosecutions based on their political beliefs.”
“There were some folks who did engage in violence and they also deserve a fair trial,” he said, but he added that his “emphasis” was on supporting the “nonviolent” protesters arrested in connection with the riot.
Manger briefed congressional leaders on Monday about the Capitol’s security precautions.
“They seemed very, very well prepared,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, told reporters afterward. “Much better prepared than before Jan. 6. I think they’re ready for whatever might happen.”
The precautions came as the Capitol Police announced Monday the arrest of a California man who had a bayonet and a machete in his truck near the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
The truck had a picture of an American flag where its license plate should have been, and a swastika and other white supremacist symbols were painted on the vehicle.
Capitol Police officials said it was not immediately clear if the man was planning to attend any upcoming demonstrations.