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Heavy Police Presence for DC Rally     09/18 10:37

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The fence around the Capitol is back up. The District of 
Columbia's police department is at the ready. The U.S. Capitol Police have 
requested assistance from nearby law enforcement agencies including the 
National Guard.

   The Capitol Police have taken no chances for Saturday's rally at the Capitol 
in support of rioters imprisoned after the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. They're 
working to avoid a repeat of the pre-inauguration attack.

   An hour before the event was to begin, as music started blaring from the 
speakers, the few demonstrators in place were vastly outnumbered by the media 
and a heavy police presence.

   A permit for the protest allows 700 people, but police were concerned about 
violent protesters and counterprotesters. 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.

   Police warned demonstrators ahead of time no weapons were allowed, and they 
were not to swim in the reflecting pools.

   On Saturday morning, police were already working to separate the handful of 
Trump supporters and counterprotesters who had arrived hours before the rally 
was supposed to kick off. Law enforcement officers geared up at a staging area 
as large dump trucks and cement barricades lined the streets around the 
Capitol, outside of the fenced area.

   Persistent attempts 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 impossible 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 rally, organized by former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard, is 
aimed at supporting people who were detained 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 latest attempt to downplay and deny the January violence.

   Intelligence collected before the rally has suggested that extremist groups 
such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers will turn up. But some prominent 
members of the groups have sworn they aren't going and have told others not to 
attend. Far-right online chatter has been generally tame, and Republican 
lawmakers are downplaying the event.

   Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request for about 100 members of 
the D.C. National Guard to be stationed at a city armory near the Capitol, to 
be called if needed as backup. They'll be without firearms, but will be 
equipped with batons and protective vests for self-defense.

   Congress is out of session and no lawmakers were expected to be in the 
building Saturday. Biden was in Delaware for the weekend.

   Many commenters on online platforms like Telegram that are popular with the 
far right disavowed the rally, saying they believed law enforcement was 
promoting the event to entrap Trump supporters. Some urged their followers not 
to attend an event they said was secretly organized by the FBI.

   At the same time, however, some commenters continued to promote rallies 
planned in cities and state capitals across the country.

   Meanwhile, Donald Trump is still using his platform as the most popular 
leader in the GOP to express sympathy for those who were arrested and continue 
spreading election misinformation, ratcheting up his attacks as the week wore 
on.

   The Associated Press reviewed hundreds of court and jail records for the 
Capitol riot defendants to uncover how many were being detained and found 
roughly 63 held in federal custody awaiting trial or sentencing hearings. 
Federal officials are still looking for other suspects who could also wind up 
behind bars.

   At least 30 are jailed in Washington. The rest are locked up in facilities 
across the country. They have said they are being treated unfairly, and one 
defendant said he was beaten.

   Federal authorities have identified several of those detained as extremist 
group leaders, members or associates, including nine defendants linked to the 
Proud Boys and three connected to the antigovernment Oath Keepers. Dozens are 
charged with conspiring to mount coordinated attacks on the Capitol to block 
Congress from certifying the 2020 Electoral College vote, among the most 
serious of the charges.

   Some jailed defendants are charged with assaulting police officers, others 
with making violent threats. A few were freed after their arrests but 
subsequently detained again, accused of violating release conditions.

   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has set 
standards for judges to apply in deciding whether to jail a Capitol riot 
defendant. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in March that rioters 
accused of assaulting officers, breaking through windows, doors and barricades, 
or playing leadership roles in the attack were in "a different category of 
dangerousness" than those who merely cheered on the violence or entered the 
building after it was breached.

   But it's unclear how the cases for the majority of those charged will end. 
On Friday, a California woman who joined the mob avoided a prison term when a 
federal judge sentenced her to probation, an outcome fitting an early pattern 
in the Jan. 6 riot prosecutions.

 
 
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