Heavy police presence as protesters trickle in for DC rally

Capitol Riots

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Law enforcement is bolstering security in the U.S. Capitol following threats of violence at Saturday’s Jan. 6 rally.

The far right group is calling for justice for those jailed after storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. Around 700 people are expected to rally on the west front of the Capitol.

For security purposes, police are not disclosing details about how many officers will be on staff on Saturday, but say a strong plan is in place. Though they are planning for a safe event, they say they are not taking any chances.

At a Friday press conference, police said that, unlike the violent Jan. 6 attack, this time officers have been trained and briefed on potential threats.

“We will be ready to handle anything that occurs,” said Sean Gallagher with the Capitol Police.

“For the last eight months the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police Department has been preparing, working to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of Jan. 6,” said Police Chief Thomas Manger.

Manger says his agency expects a peaceful demonstration, but, because of some online chatter, more officers and 100 unarmed National Guard troops will be on call.

“We would be foolish not to take seriously the intelligence that we have at our disposal,” Manger said. “How credible it is, how likely it is, people can make those judgments.”

On Thursday, former President Donald Trump released a statement in support of the protest’s cause.

A permit for the protest allows 700 people. Manger said he believes the most likely possibility for violence will involve clashes between the protesters and counter-protesters who are expected to show up. Police are also preparing for the possibility that some demonstrators may arrive with weapons.

On Saturday morning, police were working to separate the handful of Trump supporters and counter-protesters who had arrived hours before the rally was supposed to kick off. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were being brought into the city and were gearing up at a staging area as large dump trucks and cement barricades lined the streets around the Capitol, outside of the fenced area.

The rally, organized by former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard, is aimed at supporting people who have been detained after the Jan. 6 insurrection — about 63 people held behind bars out of the more than 600 charged in the deadly riot. It’s the latest attempt to downplay and deny the January violence.

Intelligence collected before the rally has suggested that extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will turn up. But some prominent members of the groups have sworn they aren’t going and have told others not to attend. Far-right online chatter has been generally tame, and Republican lawmakers are downplaying the event.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request for about 100 members of the D.C. National Guard to be stationed at a city armory near the Capitol, to be called if needed as backup for other law enforcement agencies. They will primarily protect the Capitol building and congressional offices. They’ll be without firearms, but will be equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.

Capitol Police don’t expect any current lawmakers will attend.

Law enforcement say one of their primary concern at this point is counter-protestors. They have identified at least three protests in the area planned for Saturday. Capitol police say of the groups two do not have any history of violence.

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