Police in the United States Capitol have called for help from the Pentagon ahead of a planned rally in support of those charged in connection with the deadly January 6 riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that “we have received a request from the Capitol Police for assistance with this weekend’s protests – scheduled protests.” He declined to elaborate on the nature of the request except to say that Pentagon officials are “analyzing” it and “if it can be validated and supported, we will.”
“I understand that is not an exorbitant demand,” Kirby added. “It’s not of a particularly large size or major capacity. I think it’s really more in the form of workforce support.
The rally called “Justice for J6” is to take place on Saturday afternoon near the western front of the Capitol to show its solidarity with the “prisoners” held in connection with the violence of that day.
Organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign strategist, told attendees in a post on the rally’s website not to wear or bring any “political, candidate or other organization paraphernalia,” including ” clothing or banners supporting President Trump or President Biden “.
On the contrary, rally enthusiasts are told to “[b]e respectful to our security team and law enforcement “and” wear your red, white and blue and bring your American flag and placards to show your support for the prisoners on J6 “.
Fox 5 DC reported on Monday that Braynard had estimated that around 700 people would attend the rally, but authorities in the nation’s capital are taking no chances. In addition to the Capitol Police’s request for backup, plans are in place to temporarily reinstall the protective fences that surrounded the Capitol for months after the January 6 violence.
More than 600 people face federal charges related to the riot, which directly resulted in the deaths of five people, including Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick. More than 60 people have pleaded guilty, mostly to felony charges of demonstrating on Capitol Hill.
Only a fraction of the accused remain locked up while awaiting trial. Lawyers have complained about the harsh conditions for the January 6 defendants in the DC jail, saying they are being held in what has been dubbed “the Patriot Unit.”
Some of the more serious charges, including assault, obstruction of formal process or conspiracy, have been brought against members of two far-right groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Authorities are monitoring reports that members of these groups plan to attend Saturday’s rally.
There are also concerns about the isolated actors revolving around the protest. On Monday, Capitol Police arrested a Californian who had a bayonet and a machete in his van outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Donald Craighead, 44, also had a swastika and other symbols of white supremacy painted on his truck and told officers he was “on patrol”. Police said it was not clear whether he planned to attend any upcoming protests.
In addition to the Capitol protest, the Braynard Look Ahead America group has scheduled smaller gatherings in 17 states, including outside the Capitol buildings in New York and New Jersey.
With post wires