WASHINGTON — A planned rally next month on the U.S. Capitol grounds that organizers say is intended to peacefully demand “justice” for hundreds of “political prisoners” charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection is raising law enforcement alarm and plans for beefed-up security measures.
Among measures being considered for the rally planned for Sept. 18 is reinstalling some of the recently dismantled fencing around parts of the Capitol grounds, though no decision on that has been made, according to a person familiar with the planning.
The protest, “Justice for J6,” is being orchestrated by a group called Look Ahead America, directed by Matt Braynard, who was part of the data team for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“What we are looking for is pure patriotism. It’s American flags, American clothing, T-shirts that sort of thing. And I invite you to make your own signs demanding justice for these political prisoners — demanding justice for Ashli Babbitt,” Braynard said in a video posted this week on Twitter.
Babbitt was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she climbed through a broken window in a door to the Speaker’s Lobby, which leads to the House chamber, during the Jan. 6 riot. Her death has been a rallying point for former President Donald Trump and his supporters, who falsely claim the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
More than 600 people have been arrested on a variety of charges in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, in which a mob coming from a Trump rally overran police and stormed the Capitol. The riot interrupted a joint session of Congress convened to certify the electoral votes from the election.
In a telephone interview, Braynard said the rally is meant to be peaceful and that the group has gotten approval from Capitol Police. He said the expectation is for “several thousand” people to attend.
Braynard said that “this is not about any candidate or campaign,” but about seeking justice for the arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot, who he said have been treated unfairly, as well as for Babbitt.
Braynard said in the video that his group will have its own security force and lawyers present to respond and work with police agencies to get quick responses to individuals who try to cause problems.
Law enforcement planning is still in the early stages. Details of security measures were not immediately available. No official notice has gone out to rank and file Capitol Police officers.
An officer in the U.S. Capitol Police office that handles permit applications for special events on the grounds referred questions Thursday to the public affairs office. That office did not respond to answer whether a permit application has been filed, how the event is described, or its estimated number of participants.
Security officials at the Capitol, as well as federal agencies and Washington, D.C.-area police departments, have been monitoring conspiracy theories on social media and elsewhere that Trump could soon be reinstated. Some of that speculation is pegged to some unspecified activity happening as early as this week. The Department of Homeland Security last Friday warned state and local authorities about increasing calls for violence online tied to election-related conspiracy theories.
But authorities at the Capitol have circled Sept. 18 on their calendars as a known event prompting real concern, according to a person familiar with planning, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. That day is a Saturday, when lawmakers are not scheduled to be in Washington, D.C.
In his tweeted video, Braynard said his group has held many rallies, including two in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve had a perfect safety records, and we’re going to maintain it,” he said. “Our No. 1 request is to be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers who may be present.”