As conversations fueled with vitriol continue to increase on social media outlets, the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), D.C. Police and the other local law enforcement agencies have joined forces in anticipation of potential violence which may once again strike the Capitol.
Hundreds of right-wing, white supremacists have promised to converge on D.C. for a rally on Saturday during which they will voice their support for defendants singled out by law enforcement for their participation in the Jan. 6 protest which had all the makings of a riot.
On Monday, police officers began to install multiple surveillance cameras and a temporary fence around the Capitol as well as around the U.S. Supreme Court. Some buildings in the area have also boarded up their facilities hoping to avoid the destruction of property that occurred during the insurrection in January.
Capitol police say the fence, which incurred the wrath of many D.C. residents including Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) for the length of time it remained installed before, will come down soon if things remain peaceful. However, when the fence came down in July, USCP officials indicated that under certain conditions, they might exercise the ability to beef up security around the Capitol Complex.
The Justice for J6 rally will take place around the Union Square area of the Capitol grounds, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial and the Capitol reflecting pool.
USCP Chief Tom Manger said he advises those who plan to attend and cause trouble to consider staying home.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” he said, while warning participants, “we will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
Civil disturbance units of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), specifically trained to handle First Amendment demonstrations in D.C., have already been activated with the entire force placed on alert and all vacation days suspended.
During a briefing of members of Congress on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’s confident that police are better prepared now than they were on Jan. 6.
As for Republicans who previously expressed their unabashed support for the participants who converged in the District in January, none have confirmed that they will attend the rally.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump said he will not attend the rally in support of Capitol riot suspects because he believes it’s a setup to damage his reputation, according to a New York Times report. In the past, he has spoken in support of members of his contingency who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in efforts to delay or put a halt to Joe Biden’s certification as president.
An emergency declaration, installed last week by the Capitol Police Board, will become effective prior to the demonstration – an action which gives the Department authorization to deputize neighboring law enforcement officers including the U.S. Capitol Police Special Officers.
According to social media chatter, acts of insurrection could happen on the eve of the rally, Friday, Sept. 18. However, District officials believe that far fewer citizens will participate than the huge crowd who easily overwhelmed Capitol Police in January.
“We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” Manger said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from the local community and our Congressional stakeholders as we carry out our critical mission.”
Leaders in the D.C. community have also taken steps to curtail incidents of violence.
The Downtown Cluster of Congregations (DCC), established in 1972 and currently comprised of more than 50 local churches of various faiths, wants local businesses to reduce alcohol sales and cancel hotel reservations made by those planning to participate in the rally.
DCC Executive Director Terry Lynch recently told reporters that he’s urging leaders in the District to request the assistance of local businesses with additional safety precautions.
“We don’t think it’s just up to MPD,” he said. “We don’t think it’s just up to Capitol Police to make it safe. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation.”
“We think it’d be fool-hearted not to take full seriousness with what could possibly transpire,” he said. “Given what transpired and the lives that were lost (in January), we think it is well within our responsibility to do what we can to make sure we’re safe that weekend. (But( with small simple steps, I think we can help assure safety as well as allow people to express their freedom of speech.”