Supporters of the insurrectionists charged following the riot at the Capitol will converge on Washington, D.C., on September 18th for a new rally, this one dubbed “Justice for J6.” The upcoming event is starting to take on the tenor of the ‘Save America’ rally that preceded the January 6th insurrection, both in the fervor of the Trump supporters expected to attend, and, according to a Capitol Police intelligence memo obtained Wednesday by CNN, in the violent rhetoric circulating online as the rally draws near.
Fear has been mounting for weeks that the “Justice for J6” rally could result in violence. According to the memo, violent online rhetoric surrounding the event has ramped up since Lt. Michael Byrd, the officer who shot and killed insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt when she forced her way toward the House floor, sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt late last month. The Department of Justice announced in April that it would not pursue charges against Byrd, and the Capitol Police cleared him of any wrongdoing days before he revealed his identity by speaking to Holt. But Trump and his acolytes in Congress and across right-wing media have praised Babbitt while stirring up outrage over her death. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) called it an “execution.” Trump called Byrd a “murderer,” describing Babbitt as someone who “truly loved America.” The former president’s supporters planning on making their way to Washington next week have responded in kind. According to the new memo, some have taken to calling it the “Justice for Ashli Babbitt” rally, raising concerns of the potential for violent retribution.
The memo also notes that online activity indicates the possibility of, as CNN puts it, “violence against Jewish centers and liberal churches while law enforcement is distracted that day.”
There’s a best-case scenario in all this, in which the rally falls flat, drawing only a handful of fringe protesters. That’s always a possibility in a movement whose leaders are long on bluster but short on integrity, but January 6th was a lesson in the consequences of under-preparation.
The Capitol Police will reportedly submit their board with plans for security for the event this week, and one can only hope that they will take the discussion happening online more seriously than they did prior to the January insurrection. A report published by a pair of Senate committees in June detailed how the Capitol Police’s in-house intelligence unit “received information from a variety of sources about threats of violence focused on” January 6th, that the intelligence unit didn’t act on this intel, and that, as a result, “critical information regarding threats of violence was not shared with USCP’s own officers and other law enforcement partners.”
Five people died during the insurrection and in its immediate aftermath, including one Capitol Police officer. The Capitol Police officers’ union said that over 140 officers were injured.
Congress is making sure it’s apprised how the Capitol Police plan to handle the horde of Trump supporters expected to swarm Washington for the rally. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addressed the event for the first time Wednesday morning, claiming those attending are “coming back to praise the people who were out to kill.” Politico reported on Wednesday that Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger will brief Pelosi about security preparations next Monday, and that Pelosi has invited Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to sit in on the briefing.
The nature of these precautions is unclear, although CNN reported last month that discussions were taking place as to whether to reinstall the protective fencing set up around the Capitol following the insurrection. That report came days after Capitol Police arrested a man who claimed to have a bomb near the Library of Congress, a scare that only heightened then tension in Washington that had been building ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally, which is being organized by nonprofit called Look Ahead America. Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign operative who founded the group, issued a foreboding message in announcing the rally on Steve Bannon’s podcast in July.
“We’re going back to the Capitol, right where it started,” Braynard said. “And it’s going to be huge.”