US Capitol Police have requested DC National Guard assistance ahead of planned right-wing protests scheduled for this Saturday at the Capitol, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.
“We have received a request from Capitol Police for some assistance for this weekend’s protests, scheduled protests. I’m not going to detail the specific request,” Kirby said. “We’re doing the analysis, we are in receipt of it, we’re analyzing it, and if it can be validated and supported, we’ll do that and we’ll look at the sourcing inside the department as to what’s most appropriate.”
Kirby would not give details but said “it is not an exorbitant ask,” adding that “it’s not of a particularly large size or major capability. I think it’s more in the form of some manpower support.”
US Capitol Police said Monday they are in touch with the military ahead of the protests, as the Capitol Police Board approved the return of security fencing around the Capitol building.
“We have talked to the military and we have multiple agencies assisting. We cannot provide specifics as we do not want to give away security sensitive info,” the Capitol Police said in a statement to CNN.
The planned rally has prompted a new wave of concern about more potential violence on Capitol Hill as law enforcement prepares for a variety of scenarios.
But it remains unclear how many protesters plan to attend. And the rally is taking place on a Saturday, when both chambers of Congress will be on recess, meaning far fewer lawmakers or staff will be in the area.
The “Justice for J6” rally aims to support insurrectionists charged in the deadly January 6 Capitol riot. Organizers say it is scheduled to start at noon ET on Saturday.
A source familiar with the conversations says there have been ongoing discussions between the DC National Guard and the Capitol Police about what role the Guard can take in assisting law enforcement and how best to set up and use a quick reaction force in case of an emergency.
A quick reaction force is a predetermined number of guardsmen who remain on standby to respond in different situations. Ahead of January 6, the DC National Guard had a force of 40 troops on standby to help with traffic duties and crowd control if necessary. As the situation at the Capitol deteriorated that night, it took valuable minutes to task the force with a different role.
A source familiar with the request described it as a “much more deliberative process” than before January 6 so that there is a clearer understanding of what the Capitol Police really need and how to fulfill that need. Before the insurrection, the DC National Guard’s role was limited to traffic duty and assistance with directing crowds, not riot control and law enforcement. That led to a critical delay in changing the Guard’s orders and getting them equipped to handle the riot at the Capitol.
Those discussions have also focused on the quick reaction force, the source said. Before January 6, the force had the specific task of assisting in traffic control, and the deployment of the force needed to run through the chain of command. That led to a series of questions about why the force could not deploy faster as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building.
Last week the Capitol Police Board issued an emergency declaration, which will go into effect about the time of the demonstration and allow the Department to deputize outside law enforcement officers as United States Capitol Police Special Officers.
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