Capitol Police and local Washington law enforcement leaders sought to project confidence on Friday ahead of a planned demonstration that authorities say has been accompanied by intelligence indicating the potential for violence.
The so-called Justice for J6 rally on Saturday is being held by supporters of those charged with crimes related to the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We are planning for a safe event tomorrow. But there have been some threats of violence associated with the events for tomorrow. We have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful and that if violence does occur, that we can stop it as quickly as possible,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said at a news conference.
Manger said law enforcement is maximizing its security preparations based on intelligence indicating the potential for violence on Saturday. Some members of far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys may be in attendance, as the group organizing the rally near the Capitol’s west front has depicted people jailed after allegedly storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 as “political prisoners.”
“The American public and members of Congress have an expectation that we protect the Capitol. And I’m confident with the plan we have in place that we’re going to be able to meet that expectation,” Manger said, flanked by Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee, District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Director Christopher Rodriguez and other members of Capitol Police leadership.
The permit for Saturday’s rally estimates about 700 people in attendance, although it’s unclear exactly how many will actually show up.
Manger said that law enforcement isn’t leaving anything up to chance this time around.
“We would be foolish not to take seriously the intelligence that we have at our disposal,” he added. “The fact of the matter is that we are hearing some chatter.”
However, Manger said that law enforcement is currently most concerned about potential clashes between attendees at the “Justice for J6” rally with counterprotesters. He said that they are aware of at least three groups that may be holding counterprotests.
“What we’re concerned about, I think more than anything, is the possibility of counter-demonstrators making it to this demonstration and there being violence between those two groups,” Manger said.
“In my opinion, that’s the most likely scenario for violence. But we’re also planning, just in case, any demonstration, the one at Union Square, or any of the counter-demonstrators, if they decide they want to breach the fence, if they decide they want to attack law enforcement, we’ll be ready for those kinds of violence,” he continued.
Security officials reinstalled a fence around the Capitol perimeter on Wednesday night in anticipation of Saturday’s event. The fence originally went up the day after Jan. 6 and was removed in the summer.
The Defense Department has also approved a request from the Capitol Police to provide 100 members of the D.C. National Guard, which would be deployed if the situation deteriorates on Capitol Hill. The National Guard members would not be armed.
In addition, the Metropolitan Police Department is planning an enhanced presence around the city with numerous road closures in anticipation of the event.
Manger, who was installed as the new Capitol Police chief in July after his predecessor stepped down in the wake of Jan. 6, sought to project that the department is prepared after it’s come under harsh scrutiny in numerous congressional investigations.
Those investigations found that the Capitol Police failed to take action on intelligence and adequately prepare its rank-and-file officers with training and equipment. Capitol Police officers were vastly outnumbered by the violent mob of former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won’t seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor’s race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s supporters, and it took several hours to secure the building as well as for the National Guard to arrive on the scene.
“Over the last eight months, the leadership of the U.S. Capitol Police Department has been preparing, working to ensure that we don’t have a repeat of Jan. 6,” Manger said.
While several far-right House Republicans have expressed sympathy for the jailed rioters in recent months, including some who tried to visit the D.C. jail in July to personally view their conditions, none have said they plan to attend Saturday’s event.
Manger said that he’s “not aware of any elected officials that are planning to attend,” although he noted “there were a few that were invited.”
“To my knowledge, all of them have declined,” he said.
— Updated at 2:40 p.m.