“Justice for J6” Rally Instigates A Rethinking of Security Measures

Sophia Lindstrom, Contributing Writer

Capitol organizers are planning security measures in preparation for a right-wing “Justice for J6” rally, a protest planned on September 18th to demand justice for those arrested or charged in the January 6 Capitol riots. 

According to The National Memo, the rally is set to be held on the West Lawn of the Capitol at noon ET. The event was planned by Matt Baynard, the data chief for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and founder of Look Ahead America, a nonprofit whose mission is to enfranchise conservative Americans in rural areas. 

About 500 people have indicated their plans to attend the rally, but recent events hosted by Look Ahead America, the organization run by Baynard, often have substantially lower attendances than expected and tend to be peaceful. 

According to MSNBC, the expectation among experts is that this rally will be less violent than the January 6 riot preceding it. Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, says that Braynard is not well-known enough to draw a substantial crowd. 

“A lot of the same extremist groups that participated in Jan. 6 have been very clear with their members that they should not go to this,” he said. 

According to The Week, Capitol Chief Tom Manger said that fencing around the Capitol will be set up “a day or two before” the planned rally, and it will be taken down “soon after” as long as “everything goes well”. 

Capitol Police said on Monday that its 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.” 

“We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” Manger said. “We are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from the local community and our Congressional stakeholders as we carry out our critical mission.”

Both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed their trust in the Capitol Police in mitigating any potential violence at the event. Pelosi said that the planning “seems much better” than it was in preparation of the January 6 event, but that she doesn’t “have anything to compare it to, because we weren’t briefed before [the insurrection].” 

Upon leaving a security meeting in preparation for the event, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) seemed enthusiastic about the level of security planned. “They seemed very, very well prepared,” he said in an interview for CNN. “Much better prepared than before January 6th. I think they’re ready for whatever might happen.”

Despite this, some intelligence communities perceive that the rallies pose a larger threat of violence from right-wing extremist groups. According to ABC News, the Department of Homeland Security released a bulletin warning that “Some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized.”

CBS News writes that far-right extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have announced plans to be at the Capitol rally based on information posted on traditionally right-wing online chat boards such as Parler and Gab. 

According to CNN, at least one Proud Boys leader has promoted the event to followers, and “White Lives Matter” is encouraging global demonstrations for the same date as the rally. However, “White Lives Matter” does not have a Washington, D.C. chapter. 

Additionally, there have been discussions about instigating violence associated with the event. One online chat suggested inciting violence against Jewish religious and cultural centers because law enforcement would be distracted by the rally, which is planned for just two days after Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish High Holidays. Messages on these chats have also targeted liberal churches. 

“This is a completely peaceful protest,” Baynard said in an interview for CNN. “We have told people that when they come, we don’t want to see any messaging about the election, we don’t want to see any messaging on T-shirts and flags or signs about candidates or anything like that.”

“Be respectful and kind to all law enforcement officers who may be present,” he said in a YouTube video addressed to potential rally attendees. “And if they ask you to do something, please do so.”

Over 580 people have been arrested since the January 6 rally, 30 of whom pleaded guilty for charges ranging from assault on officers to conspiracy to the destruction of government property. According to CBS News, 83 of the alleged rioters have been connected to some of the far-right groups that have expressed their interest in the event, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers as well as Three Percenters, Texas Freedom Force, and QAnon, a conspiracy ideology.