Congressional lawmakers are bracing for potential violence at Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally at the U.S. Capitol in defense of Donald Trump supporters who stormed the building on Jan. 6 protesting Joe Biden’s certification as president.
Dick Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told reporters he was “very concerned” about a repeat of Jan. 6-style violence.
“Given the violent tendencies of the right-wing extremists who plan to attend, it is obvious that this rally poses a threat to the Capitol, those who work here, and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting our democracy,” Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who oversee U.S. Capitol Police, said in a statement.
Capitol Police on Monday arrested a man from California near the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, not far from the Capitol. He had multiple long knives in his vehicle, which had a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on it, police said. Last month, authorities arrested a man who claimed to have bomb near the Capitol.
Law enforcement authorities seem to be taking this week’s planned rally much more seriously than the Jan. 6 Trump rally near the White House that precipitated the violence on Capitol Hill, which resulted in the deaths of five people and the injury of more than 140 police officers.
The fence surrounding the Capitol that stood for months after Jan. 6 is set to return before Saturday’s event. The rally will be held at the Union Square plaza on the west lawn of the Capitol ― a good distance from the building itself.
“They seemed very, very well prepared,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday after attending a briefing with Capitol Police leaders and other top congressional officials.
The “Justice for J6” rally is being organized by Matt Braynard, an ex-campaign employee for Trump. The event is billed as a show of support those arrested in the riot and a demand of “justice” for Ashli Babbitt, who was shot to death by a police officer as she and other Trump supporters attempted to force her way onto the floor of the House of Representatives, where members of Congress were taking shelter.
Trump and his supporters have attempted to make a martyr out of Babbitt, demanding to know the identity of the officer who shot her. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) last month falsely referred to Babbitt and those charged with storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “political hostages” and “political prisoners.” Cawthorn also predicted that more “bloodshed” would follow another “stolen” presidential election, remarks that were widely criticized for encouraging future violence.
It’s unclear whether any Republican lawmakers will attend Saturday’s rally. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who along with other Republican lawmakers objected to Biden’s electoral victory, told reporters on Monday he didn’t believe any members of his conference would be there. The House is currently in recess and isn’t scheduled to return until next week.
GOP senators seemed uninterested in discussing the subject when asked about it on Monday.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who famously raised his fist outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 to the gathering Trump mob and led the Senate effort contesting Biden’s victory, said he was more focused on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The country is in a major crisis. This president has desperately failed and he’s failed in a shameful way,” said Hawley, calling for Biden’s resignation. “Everything else is a distraction.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she hoped Saturday’s rally would be peaceful.
“Any time a crowd gathers there’s always a potential for something to go awry but I certainly hope they peacefully protest. That’s what we’re known for,” Capito said.