U.S. Capitol Police were taking no risks, with hundreds of officers brought into Washington in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the pre-inauguration attack. The wall around the Capitol was placed back up, the city police force was fully activated and Capitol Police asked for support from the National Guard.
There were a few struggles as the demonstration began and one person was captured for carrying a knife, police said, but no major disturbances were reported early on. Still, law enforcement officials remained on edge, concerned about the possibility of violent protesters and counter-protesters. Police were also preparing for the possibility that some demonstrators may arrive with weapons, though backpacks were allowed into the area and there were no checkpoints.
The assembly was surrounded by heavy dump trucks and took place in areas far from the Capitol building. Law enforcement officers prepared staging areas and metal barricades were placed around the streets. Inside the Capitol, police riot shields were installed near doors and windows, a stark contrast from January, when officers inside were left without riot equipment and immediately overwhelmed as the crowd stormed inside.
The determined endeavor to rewrite the narrative of the violence and panic of Jan. 6, and the increasing volatility behind the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, have made it difficult to predict what may happen this weekend. After all, law enforcement was only expecting a free speech protest the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said at a news conference Friday it was difficult to say whether threats of violence at the event were credible, but “chatter” online and elsewhere has been similar to intelligence that was missed in January.
The demonstration, organized by former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard, is directed at helping people who were arrested after the Jan. 6 insurrection — about 63 people held behind bars out of the more than 600 charged in the deadly riot. It’s just the tardiest attempt to downplay and dismiss the January violence. In an MSNBC interview, he downplayed the low numbers in attendance, saying instead the media coverage of the event helped get the message out.