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Law enforcement bracing for potential violence at Saturday's right-wing rally in DC

U.S. Capitol Fence
Posted at 2:31 AM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 13:45:50-04

Congressional leaders have been briefed, and law enforcement in Washington, D.C., is bracing for potential violence to occur Saturday as right-wing protesters descend on the National Mall in support of those who stormed the Capitol during the deadly riots on Jan. 6.

Capitol Police say Saturday's planned protest is permitted for 700 people — just a fraction of the thousands of people that fought with police and disrupted official proceedings on Jan. 6.

Still, law enforcement is taking extra precautions ahead of the rally, including re-installing barbed wire fencing around the Capitol building and keeping National Guard troops at the ready.

Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger confirmed during a press conference on Friday that his department has received intelligence indicating violence could take place at Saturday's event. While he could not confirm how reliable those reports were, he added that the department "wasn't taking any chances," and that "we would be foolish not to take it into account."

Manger said officers believed the greatest threat of violence could come in the form of clashes between the group gathering on the mall and counter-protesters. He noted that the Capitol Police was aware of three separate groups that may be in the area for counter-protests, and said officers would do their best to keep groups apart.

According to CNN, intelligence reports indicate that there has been a "noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric" online surrounding the Jan. 6 riots — particularly the fatal shooting of Trump supporter Ashli Babbit by a member of the Capitol Police. As a result, the Capitol Police said Monday that it would issue an "emergency declaration" that would go into effect during the rally on Saturday.

The rally has been dubbed "Justice for J6" by organizers. They are calling for due process for those who have been arrested and charged in connection with the Capitol riot.

A handful of Republicans have claimed that some charged in the Capitol riots have been treated unfairly in jail ahead of their trials.

"These are political prisoners who are now being persecuted and bearing the pain of unjust suffering," said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, on July 27.

CNN reports that Saturday's event is being planned by "Look Ahead America," a nonprofit led by former Trump campaign staffer Matt Barnyard.

Barnyard told CNN that he expected Saturday's protest to be peaceful, and he urged attendees not to wear clothing or carry signs that mentioned President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

Trump on Thursday released a statement, amplifying false claims of a stolen election. He also called the justice system "two-tiered" against those who had been arrested on Jan. 6.

But Trump also told The Federalist that he thought Saturday's rally was a "set up."

"On Saturday, that's a setup," Trump said. "If people don't show up, they'll say, 'Oh, it's a lack of spirit.' And if people do show up, they'll be harassed."

Despite claims of unfair treatment, The Associated Press reports that those charged in connection with racial justice protests following George Floyd's death have received more severe prison sentences than those who stormed the Capitol.