Police to discuss preparations for Saturday protest at Capitol

Top local police officials will hold a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss security preparations for the rally in support of the jailed Jan. 6 protesters on Saturday.

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The press conference, which is scheduled for 1 p.m., comes as police in the District of Columbia ramp up security measures ahead of the rally — including re-installing a fence around the U.S. Capitol — in an effort to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 riot at the building.

The Department of Homeland Security released an internal bulletin this week alerting law enforcement that there is a “small number of recent online threats of violence” linked to the rally, including “online discussions encouraging violence the day before the rally,” CBS News reported on Friday.

The rally is billed as an event to demand “justice” for the more than 600 people charged after rioters stormed the Capitol building in an effort to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory over then-President Trump. 

Event organizer Matt Braynard, who served as data director for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said participants in Saturday’s protest want to focus new attention on allegations that some of those jailed have been singled out for harsh and unfair treatment while in custody.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said this week that the fence — which was first erected after the riot and taken down in July — is a temporary measure “to ensure everyone’s safety” during the rally.

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Surveillance cameras also have been installed around the rally site on the west side of the Capitol grounds, and the Metropolitan Police Department has announced numerous nearby street closures and no-parking areas for Saturday.

Melissa Smislova, a top intelligence official at DHS, said the agency expects about 700 people will be at Saturday’s rally, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Both the Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated, and the Capitol Police has asked for the National Guard to be ready “should the need arise.” An emergency declaration has been authorized to allow Capitol Police to deputize outside law enforcement officers as special officers during the Saturday rally.

Police are also preparing for the possibility of weapons at the rally, two people familiar with the preparations told The Associated Press. Officers are monitoring hotel bookings, flights, car rental reservations and buses chartered to bring groups to the nation’s capital.

Mr. Manger has urged “anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home.” 

“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” he said. “We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”

The “Justice for J6” rally is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday, and 17 sister rallies are scheduled outside state capitol buildings across the country.

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