A rally at the U.S. Capitol planned for Saturday in support of the January 6 rioters has a permit limiting the event to no more than 700 attendees, a person briefed on the matter told the Associated Press.
The protest is being led by former Republican Party data analyst Matt Braynard, who has pushed false claims of election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Braynard has promised to hold the rally no matter how many people attend.
“At no point will I cancel this rally,” Braynard told WTOP radio in Washington. “This is happening even if I’m there by myself with a megaphone.”
There has been little word on whether others will attend the rally, including the members of Congress allied with Braynard’s cause. The event has still put law enforcement on edge, adding stepped-up security measures and generating concerns that members of the same extremist groups present at the Jan. 6 riots could be in attendance.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Braynard started a nonprofit after he was dismissed by Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign following several months on the job, but struggled to raise money. The group’s tax-exempt status was revoked last year.
He joined an aggrieved group of Trump allies seeking to overturn the election — and in the process reaped recognition, lucrative fees and a fundraising windfall that enabled him to rekindle his nonprofit.
Now, Braynard and his group, Look Ahead America, are using his newfound platform and resources to present an alternate history of the Jan. 6 attack that was meant to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s victory, rebranding those who were charged as “political prisoners.”
How much of a draw his “Justice for J6” rally ends up being will test the reach and potency of the emerging far-right movement, as well as the extent of Braynard’s own reach.
Braynard, who is in his 40s, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The Associated Press earlier declined to accept his condition that an interview of him be broadcast live.
But a review of court records, campaign finance disclosures and social media postings, as well as Braynard’s past interviews with journalists that he has posted online, document his efforts to build his influence over the past year, culminating in Saturday’s event.
The seeds of the rally were planted the day after the 2020 election as Trump made false claims of widespread voter fraud, which were later rejected by numerous courts, election officials and his own attorney general at the time, William Barr.
Braynard suggested on Twitter that there could have been fraud in the election, while promoting an online fundraiser he created to defray the cost of analyzing voting data in states where the Trump campaign insisted it was winning.
He told BuzzFeed News in a summer interview that he brought some early findings to the attention of the Trump campaign. The campaign, which had declined to rehire him earlier in the 2020 campaign as a low-level field staffer, initially agreed to hear him out. But after he arrived at campaign headquarters, campaign officials changed their minds, he said.
“I stood on the sidewalk for an hour while they fought inside about whether or not to let me in,” he said. “Ultimately, I was told I would not be let in and I went home.”
His online fundraising, however, took off. After the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com took down an early effort, citing misleading information, Braynard migrated to an conservative-friendly site and quickly took in over $675,000.
A subsequent report he wrote on his findings — which one expert excoriated as “riddled with errors” and violating “basic standards for scientific evidence” — was embraced by Trump’s allies and served as an evidentiary cornerstone in numerous court cases that were later dismissed.
Since then, Braynard has used the influx of resources to revive Look Ahead America and reapply for tax-exempt status, which has yet to be approved, according to an IRS database. The group now lists 11 staffers on its website.
The Jan. 6 attack quickly became an organizing principle for Braynard’s efforts.
His first post after creating an account on the conservative-friendly social media site Telegram came days after the attack and featured a picture of the 1933 fire at Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag, which the Nazi party used as a pretext to seize power. Braynard’s caption: “The real coup is being conducted by Silicon Valley right now,” a reference to a widespread complaint by conservatives that they are being silenced on social media.
Since then, he’s shared a link to a fundraiser for Ethan Nordean, a member of the Proud Boys extremist group, who was charged in the attack. “If you don’t share this post I don’t ever want to hear y’all say you’re fighting back against this oppressive government,” he wrote.
But Braynard has also sought to make inroads with more mainstream conservatives.
Look Ahead America was a sponsor at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering that typically draws Republican presidential contenders. The group garnered considerable attention for a large golden statue of a “surfer” Trump, complete with red, white and blue shorts, that was part of their booth.