In a city still on edge after the January 6 uprising, the police descended on the Capitol in large numbers on Saturday, fearing that a rally in support of the imprisoned rioters would become violent. This is not the case.
The crowd was sparse and incidents few. The only clear parallels to the riots more than eight months ago by supporters of Donald Trump were the rally organizers’ false claims about violence that day, when Congress met to certify the election of Joe Biden.
The low turnout has also called into question the ability of such rallies to last as organizers attempt to capitalize on the January 6 rage without the former president’s presence.
Law enforcement had prepared for a confrontation by erecting temporary fences around the Capitol and deploying heavy dump trucks to surround the rally site. Local law enforcement and the US National Guard were on standby.
Security may have been unnecessary in the end, but the volatility around the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and the presence of extremists and white nationalist groups on January 6 made it impossible to predict how such events will take place.
U.S. Capitol Police said they received intelligence information ahead of the weekend that was similar to what was missed in January, when law enforcement was awaiting a protest for freedom. expression and that Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol.
Republican lawmakers, including those who voted that day to challenge Biden’s election, avoided Saturday’s rally. The organizer of the rally, Matt Braynard, criticized elected officials for not supporting those currently in prison and presented candidates who are running for election.
The counter-demonstrators stood up and laughed. Some were holding anti-Trump signs and a man who had clashed with some of the pro-Trump protesters was quickly kidnapped by police, who used bicycles to protect him from the crowds as they escorted him down the streets.
One person was arrested in the crowd for carrying a knife and a second man was arrested after someone reported to officers they saw him carrying what appeared to be a handgun, police said . Two other people who police said were wanted in Texas – on a gun charge and a probation violation – were also arrested after being arrested near the Capitol on Saturday morning.
Braynard, a former Trump campaigner, opened in calm and deliberate tones. He said the event was for the defendants held behind bars.
On January 6, dozens of law enforcement officers were bloodied and beaten as crowds of pro-Trump rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and bear spray, charged in. the Capitol, quickly overtaking the overwhelmed police force. A policeman was repeatedly beaten and shocked with a stun gun until he had a heart attack; another was foaming at his mouth and screaming for help as rioters crushed him between two doors and hit him on the head with his own weapon.
The Associated Press examined hundreds of court and jail records for Capitol Riot defendants to find out how many were being held and found about 63 inmates in federal custody awaiting trial or sentencing hearings.
At least 30 are imprisoned in Washington. The rest are locked up in establishments across the country. They said they were being treated unfairly, and one defendant said he was beaten.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has set standards that judges must apply in deciding whether or not to jail an accused of the Capitol Riot. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in March that rioters accused of assaulting officers, smashing windows, doors and barricades, or playing a leading role in the attack were in “a different category of dangerousness “from those who simply encouraged violence or entered the building after it was breached.
Among the speakers at the rally was Jonathan Mellis’ girlfriend, who was seen on camera on January 6 using a baton to attack officers who were outside the Capitol trying to hold back the crowd. , the authorities said.
Mellis was heard saying “take off their masks” and video shows him repeatedly hitting and stabbing officers with the baton, court documents show. Authorities said in court documents he appeared to be trying to punch officers’ necks between their helmets and bulletproof vests, where they had no protection.
Other defendants ordered to be locked up pending trial include a man accused of dragging a policeman down the steps to be beaten by an American flag and another man accused of leading a group of rioters onto the steps. of the Capitol to confront the police.
But judges have freed the vast majority of the defendants, including more than a dozen members and associates of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group, who are indicted in perhaps the most serious case at this time. day in the attack. Only three people indicted in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case remain locked up after judges said they appeared to play a leading role in the alleged conspiracy.
Authorities said the Oath Keepers prepared in the weeks leading up to Jan.6 as if they were heading for war, came to Washington ready for the violence, and dressed that day in military gear. combat, wearing helmets and tactical vests.