U.S. Capitol Police are activating a large-scale security plan in hopes of avoiding the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Chief Tom Manger said at a Friday press conference.
Manger said there have been some conflicting reports of whether the groups attending the “Justice for J6” rally Saturday afternoon will employ any forms of violence during the demonstration, but that officers will be ready if they do.
Meanwhile, residents across the District can expect a stepped-up police presence throughout the day, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said.
Manger said threats of violence related to the rally have been identified in intelligence “chatter.”
“It’s tough to say whether they’re credible or not,” he said. “We don’t know with any certainty, but what we do know is that the chatter that we heard prior to Jan. 6 obviously … many of those threats turned out to be, in fact, credible, and so we’re not taking any chances,” he said.
The demonstration is being organized to protest the arrests of those who stormed the Capitol Building on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of then-President elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. That riot led to the death of five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
Many felt that Capitol police were severely underprepared on Jan. 6, and then-U. S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned.
Fencing returned near the Capitol earlier this week and there are road closures near the demonstration area that go into effect Friday evening.
The event permit says that 700 people are expected to attend the demonstration, but Manger said it is unclear how accurate that number is. He said U.S. Capitol Police and the other assisting agencies will be prepared to meet the demands of the situation depending on how the day unfolds.
He said the primary concern at the moment is not violence at the rally itself, but the potential for violent clashes between the demonstrators and counter-protesters. There is a counter-protest planned to take place at Freedom Plaza on Saturday.
Contee said the D.C. police department would be “fully activated” on Saturday, so the department could provide extra security for the event while still providing normal police services for the District.
The H Street Festival, about a mile northeast of the Capitol, will also be taking place on Saturday, and Contee said he expects it will be held without any major incidents.
“The H Street Festival is a festival that’s been happening in the District of Columbia for several years now,” Contee said. “We expect it to go on, and the people who attend are going to enjoy themselves. Again, we’re prepared — we have contingency plans for any possible disruptions.”
The D.C. National Guard has been put on stand-by, and Manger said they will be called in to assist if the rally goes longer than planned. He said there are no plans for those members of the National Guard to be armed as of yet.