A U.S. Capitol Police officer patrols the east front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 15, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The U.S. Capitol Police said Wednesday it asked the Pentagon to free up the National Guard in case it is needed for an upcoming rally in support of the deadly Jan. 6 invasion.
The department said in a tweet that it “asked the Department of Defense for the ability to receive National Guard support should the need arise” at the Saturday protest.
That announcement came hours before construction of a fence around the Capitol was set to begin, two sources told NBC News earlier Wednesday. The installation will start at 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC reported.
The “Justice forJ6” rally, organized by an ex-campaign staffer for former President Donald Trump, is expected to draw about 700 people outside the U.S. Capitol building, a Homeland Security Department official said.
On Jan. 6, the Capitol was overrun with Trump supporters who forced a joint session of Congress into hiding, temporarily derailing the confirmation of President Joe Biden‘s Electoral College victory. Capitol police officers who defended Congress have since described the mob as being intent on stopping Biden’s election.
The failure to secure the Capitol from the mob of pro-Trump rioters led the USCP’s internal watchdog to call for widespread changes to the department.
The USCP said in a press release Monday that they are “aware of concerning online chatter” surrounding the rally, and that the Capitol Police Board had approved plans to temporarily erect fencing around the Capitol. The board also issued an emergency declaration that will allow USCP to deputize outside law enforcement officers.
“I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in that press release.
Rally organizer Matt Braynard told CNBC in an email that “there is no possibility of violence [from] our peaceful protest.”
More than 600 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol invasion, and dozens have already pleaded guilty.
The attempt by the upcoming rallygoers, as well as some members of Congress, to re-frame the Jan. 6 rioters as “political prisoners” follows other efforts by the political right to downplay the attack. In May, for instance, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., claimed Jan. 6 was not an insurrection but a “normal tourist visit.”
“I think they’re much better prepared than things were before” Jan. 6, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday after Manger briefed him and other congressional leaders about the rally.
The rally follows other incidents by lone actors in recent weeks. On Monday, police arrested a man who allegedly had knives in a pickup truck displaying swastikas that was outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
Last month, police arrested another man who parked his pickup truck outside the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill and claimed he had a bomb.