AFP / Washington
Washington was on high alert yesterday 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 today’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 organisers 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.
Members of Congress will not be in the building today, with many still on summer recess and not due back in town until next week.
Organiser 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 yesterday. “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.
A rioter was shot dead by police as she tried to breach the Senate.
Officials say the mob assaulted 140 officers.
The damage to the Capitol complex was estimated at $1.5mn.
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.
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