WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin placed 100 National Guard troops on standby to help protect the Capitol ahead of Saturday’s rally supporting people charged in the deadly Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection.
Hundreds of far-right demonstrators are expected in the District of Columbia for the “Justice For J6” rally, a reference to the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump in an attempt to disrupt the confirmation of Joe Biden as the next president.
The 100 National Guard troops will only deploy upon the request of the Capitol Police and will help man entry points to the Capitol complex, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday. The spokesman added that the troops will only be used after local, state and federal law enforcement capabilities have been tapped.
The USCP has not asked the National Guard members to be armed, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told reporters at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Manger said police are “hearing some chatter” and that “we would be foolish not to take seriously the intelligence we have at our disposal.” He noted that similar threats ahead of the Jan. 6 attack “turned out to be in fact credible, so we’re not taking any chances.”
A U.S. Capitol police officer adjusts security fencing outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of a planned “Justice for J6” rally in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The chief added that “the most likely scenario for violence” is the possibility of the protesters clashing with counterdemonstrators. Capitol Police are aware of at least three counter-protest groups planning to gather, one of which has more of a history of violence than the others.
Manger also said some elected officials had been invited to the event, but “to my knowledge all of them declined.”
Rally organizer Matt Braynard did not immediately respond when asked which elected officials had been invited to the event.
“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,” acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher said at the presser.
In recent days, police have ramped up security around the Capitol, erecting fences around the Capitol grounds, Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and other congressional office buildings.
Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department Robert Contee told reporters on Friday that local and federal security partners have carefully planned for the upcoming rally.
“Our department has increased staffing today and is fully activated for tomorrow. So you will notice an increased police presence around the city and this is to ensure everyone’s safety and security throughout the district,” Contee said.
Manger said that while the permit for the rally requested a presence of 700 people, it was not clear if all those individuals would attend.
The Transportation Security Administration has said that travelers arriving at Regan National Airport in Virginia will face increased security in the run-up to the rally.
“Travelers will notice increased law enforcement and canine presence along with a generally higher level of awareness in TSA’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to transportation security,” a TSA spokesperson told Reuters.
On Jan. 6, Trump encouraged thousands of his supporters at a rally outside the White House to march to the Capitol to protest what historically have been ceremonial proceedings.
Vice President Mike Pence, who had been presiding over the count of Electoral College votes, was rushed out of the Senate as the Capitol complex went into lockdown when Trump supporters began pouring into the building.
Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa – who were all in the line of presidential succession – were taken to secure locations.
The joint session resumed hours after the Capitol was cleared of the mob, and confirmed Biden’s victory.
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick collapsed hours after he was attacked by rioters and died the day after the insurrection. Four police officers who responded to the insurrection have died by suicide since the attack.
Trump, who was impeached by the House for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said in a statement Thursday that he condemned the criminal prosecution of his supporters who were part of the mob that invaded the Capitol.