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US Capitol braced for rally supporting January 6 rioters

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The US Capitol is seen through a temporary security fence -- security measures are heightened ahead of a September 18 rally to protest the prosecution of suspects in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol./AFP
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Sep 18, 2021 - 06:59 AM

WASHINGTON — Washington was on high alert Friday on the eve of a rally in support of the pro-Trump rioters who ransacked the US Capitol on January 6, with security forces better prepared to avoid a repeat of the mayhem.

A black fence that surrounded the complex for six months after the deadly riot has been put back up for the weekend along with surveillance cameras, although police have no indication of a specific plot associated with Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally.

Capitol Police nevertheless warned in a news conference there had been “some threats of violence,” with a counter-rally scheduled to take place nearby.

“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,” said Sean Gallagher, acting assistant chief for the Capitol Police’s uniformed operations.

The force says while demonstration organizers obtained a permit for 700 protesters, officers are prepared for a larger turnout.

The National Guard has 100 officers standing ready to act as a “physical security task force” backing up the Capitol Police and local law enforcement if requested.

“What we’re concerned about, I think more than anything, is the possibility of counter-demonstrators making it to this demonstration and there being violence between those two groups,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told reporters.

Respect 

Members of Congress will not be in the building on Saturday, with many still on summer recess and not back in town until next week.

Manger said some lawmakers had been invited to the rally but all had declined. He told reporters three groups of counter-protesters were planning on showing up, one of which “has had some clashes before.” But he didn’t name them.

Organizer Look Ahead America, which is planning similar rallies across the country in the coming weeks, appealed for attendees to show respect to law enforcement officers and refrain from bringing Donald Trump banners.

“We think anybody that committed violence against police officers or destroyed property at the Capitol building on January 6 should be given a speedy trial — if guilty, convicted and locked up,” executive director Matt Braynard told C-SPAN on Friday.

“Our advocacy is on behalf of the vast majority of people arrested at that event who are not charged with committing violence against police officers, who are not charged with destruction of property.”

Thousands of Trump’s supporters, some associated with ultra-nationalist and white supremacist groups, stormed the US legislature eight months ago in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Around 600 have been charged, including at least 185 accused of assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees and more than 70 indicted for destruction or theft of government property.

‘Cancer for the country’ 

A rioter was shot dead by police as she tried to breach the Senate. Officials say the mob assaulted 140 officers, with damage to the Capitol complex estimated at $1.5 million.

The rioters had been egged on by Trump, whose fiery speech earlier that day falsely claiming election fraud was the culmination of months of baseless claims about the November 2020 contest he lost fairly to Biden.

A large majority of 57 senators — including seven from his own party — voted to convict Trump after he was impeached by the House for inciting the riot, although this fell short of the two-thirds majority required under Senate rules to unseat a president.

“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election,” Trump said in a statement.

In vengeful mood, the former reality TV star has endorsed primary opponents against several of the 10 Republican House representatives who voted to impeach him, including former NFL player Anthony Gonzalez.

Of the remaining nine, Liz Cheney was kicked out of the House Republican leadership and has a Trump-endorsed primary challenger, as do Fred Upton and Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Gonzalez, a Cuban American congressman from Ohio, announced on Thursday he would not be seeking reelection in 2022, calling Trump “a cancer for the country” and a threat to American democracy.

“1 down, 9 to go!” the former president responded Friday in a statement.

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