‘Justice for J6’ rally disperses with few incidents

Rally-goers near the Capitol Sept. 18, 2021.

Rally-goers near the U.S. capitol Sept. 18, 2021.

Law enforcement was ready at the Capitol Sept. 18, 2021.

Rally-goers near the Capitol Sept. 18, 2021.

(WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
A counter-protestor is escorted out of the rally site by police officers as supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol attend the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A view of the National Mall as supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol attend the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

One of the counter protesters is Doug Hughes, who in 2015 flew a gyrocopter onto the West Lawn of the Capitol, near the site of today’s rally. He was jailed and lost his job but says he has no regrets. He was protesting government corruption.

Only a small number of people showed up so far ahead of the noon rally in support of those jailed after the Jan. 6 insurrection. (WTOP/Mitchell Miller)

Geraldine Lavell speaks to the press as she attends the ‘Justice for J6’ rally with supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

People walk by the U.S. Capitol before the start of a ‘Justice for J6’ rally in support of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Protestors are expected to gather in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Trucks are blocking the traffic to 3rd Street near the rally site.

Dan, a protestor who declined to give his last name, sits on a security barrier as supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol begin to arrive for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Police stand guard in front of the U.S. Capitol before the start of a ‘Justice for J6’ rally in support of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. Protestors are expected to gather in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Counter-protester Tim Smith carries a ‘LOSER’ sign as he passes by supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol plan ahead of the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Supporters of those charged in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol walk past a counter-protest sign as they arrive for the ‘Justice for J6’ rally near the U.S. Capitol September 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. The protestors gathered in Washington, DC on Saturday to support over 600 people arrested and charged in connection with the January 6 attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The J6 rally will take place on the other side of the reflecting pool, closest to the National Mall. It is lined with heavy trucks and a major law enforcement presence on Saturday morning.

(WTOP/Mitch Miller)
Officers from Fairfax County among those brought in to bolster U.S. Capitol Police.

The biggest police presence is about 100 to 150 yards away from the main demonstration site.

A lot of law enforcement officers with riot gear are around the area in case they’re needed.

A counterprotestor’s sign can be seen on the National Mall on Saturday.

A counterprotestor’s sign can be seen on the National Mall on Saturday.

Rally will take place on west side of the Capitol but police are on the east side and all around the Capitol grounds.

Police will be patrolling on bikes during the rally. They were preparing outside of the Capitol on Saturday morning.

(WTOP/Mitchell Miller)
The U.S. Capitol stands as security is heightened around Capitol Hill a day before a planned rally by supporters of those arrested following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Sep. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. The nation’s capital is once again under tight security with the Biden administration deploying as many as 100 members of the D.C. National Guard ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally planned for Saturday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Tourists view the U.S. Capitol behind security fencing on Sep. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security in Washington, D.C. has been increased in preparation for the Justice for J6 Rally, a rally happening this weekend in Washington for support for those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to protest the 2020 presidential election outcome. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The U.S. Capitol is seen behind security fencing on Sep. 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security in Washington, D.C. has been increased in preparation for the Justice for J6 Rally, a rally happening this weekend in Washington for support for those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to protest the 2020 presidential election outcome. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Workers install security fencings around the U.S. Capitol in preparations for this weekend’s Justice for J6 Rally on Sep. 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security in the Nation’s Capital has been increased in preparation for the Justice for J6 Rally, a rally for support for those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to protest the 2020 presidential election outcome. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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After an unprecedented security surge in the runup by U.S. Capitol and law enforcement groups, the “Justice for J6” rally moved into D.C. Saturday and broke up as scheduled at about 1:15 p.m., with few incidents.

The U.S. Capitol Police said they made four arrests near the demonstration.

Saturday’s rally was organized by a group in support of those charged in the deadly attack on the Capitol Jan. 6, and “officials were planning for the worst and hoping for the best, and that appears to be what happened,” WTOP’s Ken Duffy said.


Here’s what you need to know:


The rally was set for Union Square, between 1st and 3rd streets. Some 700 people were expected to attend the demonstration, according to the event permit.

At about 2 p.m., WTOP Capitol Hill Correspondent Mitchell Miller estimated the crowd at a few hundred and said, “This was really your standard Washington First Amendment exercise” that ended peacefully.

The Capitol Police estimated the crowd at about 400 to 450.

Organizer Matt Braynard at the rally called for a round of applause for police officers, saying, “We respect you. We know you have a tough job. We’re not your enemy.” He told protesters to “take your anger and channel it into something productive,” and said the gathering was in support of those who he described as “caught up in the moment” Jan. 6. Those who committed violent acts, he said, “belong in prison.”

Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday that the primary concern was not violence at the rally itself, but the potential for violent clashes between the demonstrators and counter-protesters.

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez said he’d seen counter-protesters mixing in with rally-goers, but “I have not seen [them] making any attempt to disrupt the event.” He added that “Some debates have broken out, some quite heated. But personally I have not seen any direct confrontation” between any combination of protesters, counter-protesters and the police.

Duffy reported Saturday from the Capitol that there was “a brief interaction between counter-protesters and those leaving the rally heading north from here, but they broke that up pretty quickly.”

Arrests

The Capitol Police said they stopped a vehicle on Louisiana Avenue Saturday morning and arrested two people on “felony extraditable warrants” out of Texas.

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At 12:40 p.m., the Capitol Police arrested a man who had a knife on a weapons violation. Duffy was there when police were searching a man for weapons.

The Capitol Police also said a man was spotted with a gun in the rally crowd at 1:30 p.m. and charged him.

Counter-protests

Miller said one of the counter-protesters was Doug Hughes, who in 2015 flew a gyrocopter onto the West Lawn of the Capitol near the site of today’s rally. He was jailed and lost his job but says he has no regrets. He was protesting government corruption.

All morning, there was a large police presence around the Capitol and throughout the National Mall. Miller said the area on the side of the reflecting pool closest to the National Mall was “lined with heavy trucks and major law enforcement presence.”

Miller said that even though the rally was set for the west side of the Capitol, police had a heavy presence on the east side and throughout the Capitol grounds, as well as several policing units on bikes throughout the area.

Police from Fairfax County were seen near the Capitol, being brought in to bolster the Capitol Police.

WTOP’s John Domen said that the biggest police presence on Saturday morning was about 100 to 150 yards away from the main demonstration site.

“Lots of law enforcement with riot gear just sort of hanging out in the background in case they’re needed,” Domen said. He said signs from counter-protesters could be seen at the rally site.

The Capitol Police were hoping to avoid what happened on Jan. 6, when a mob breached the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from confirming the electoral votes for Joe Biden.

Threats of violence related to the rally had been identified in intelligence “chatter,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday. CBS News reported that the Department of Homeland Security informed law enforcement partners of a “small number of recent online threats of violence” linked to the rally, as well as the encouragement of violence the day before the rally.”

Braynard had told WTOP that there would not be any violence during the rally, and that he had no plans to cancel it over the risk of violence.

A church that was vandalized during a rally supporting former President Donald Trump last year called on police to ramp up security and expressed concerns about what the demonstration could mean for the safety of the congregation, pointing to a report warning that Jewish centers and liberal churches could be targeted.

The U.S. Capitol Police asked the Defense Department for National Guard support as well.

Some roads that were closed near the Capitol for the rally may stay closed until midnight.

WTOP’s Abigail Costantino contributed to this report.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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