What to Know About the Right-Wing 'Justice for J6' Rally — and Why Some People Are Concerned

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said this week he hoped police would prevent a repeat of the Jan. 6 rioting by a pro-Trump mob

capitol coup
Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty

Fencing has gone up around the U.S. Capitol and law enforcement has gathered in advance of a far-right rally scheduled for Saturday, billed as a protest of the criminal cases involving those who stormed the building in January.

The event — eight months after the deadly rioting by the pro-Trump mob just before he left office — has raised some concerns among observers and lawmakers, though it is permitted for only 700 people to attend.

Reporters at the scene said Saturday afternoon there appeared to be several hundred people in the area, though that number included some counter-protesters.

Security experts warned the protest could be a repeat of the Jan 6. event, which began as a "Stop the Steal" rally and devolved after Trump supporters then marched on the Capitol in a deadly maelstrom, putting a pause to the certification of the presidential election and forcing the evacuation of lawmakers from both parties.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said this week he hoped the police response would be aggressive: "If anybody gets out of line, they need to whack 'em."

Here's what to know about this Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally.

It's being held in support of those who stormed the Capitol in January

The "Justice for J6" rally is hosted by Look Ahead America, an organization created by former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard.

In a video posted to YouTube, Braynard said the event, on the west lawn of the Capitol, will "raise awareness" of what he calls "a grave violation of civil rights of hundreds of our fellow Americans."

Braynard is referring to those arrested and charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, during which a large group of Trump supporters stormed the complex as lawmakers gathered to certify Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.

There were five fatalities in connection to the riots, including that of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day. (There have been a string of suicides among police since then as well.)

Though lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were quick to slam the January riot in its immediate aftermath, some have since downplayed the significance of the insurrection.

Republican Rep. Andrew Clyde, for instance — who was photographed barricading a door to prevent rioters from entering the Capitol rotunda — compared the events of that day to a "normal tourist visit."

Others have argued that the rioters arrested for breaching the Capitol (and, in some cases, beating police officers, making death threats to public officials, and destroying government property) are being mistreated.

According to its website, Look Ahead America is also planning similar rallies in 17 other cities across the country on Saturday.

It's the first big test of the Capitol's security since the January riots

The Department of Homeland Security estimated that approximately 700 people will attend the event, with law enforcement installing temporary fencing around the Capitol to deter people from attempting to get inside the building, as they did on Jan. 6.

Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department has planned an increased presence on Saturday to coincide with the rally.

Speaking to reporters this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he felt Capitol Police were "well equipped to handle what may or may not occur."

Unlike on Jan. 6, when lawmakers were in the building as it was breached, Congress will not be in session. (Various investigations, meanwhile, were started in the wake of the January riot to better understand the security failures.)

Organizers are warning people not to wear pro-Trump merchandise and conspiracy theories abound

Among the "rules for the rally" posted on the event website, one stands out: "Do not wear or bring political, candidate, or another organization's paraphernalia. This includes clothing or banners supportive of President Trump or President Biden."

The website does, however, encourage attendees to wear "red, white, and blue and bring your American flag and signs to show your support" of what organizers claim are "the J6 prisoners."

Many of those pictured at the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot were wearing Trump merchandise and waving Make America Great Again flags. In one instance, rioters even tore down an American flag that hangs at the Capitol and replaced it with a Trump-branded flag.

In the lead-up to Saturday's demonstration, some right-wing conspiracy theorists warned of a "false flag" attempt to entrap those who attend, NBC News reported, though even the event organizer said those rumors were untrue.

"There are voices on the left and the right trying to discourage patriotic Americans from believing that the election system cannot be fixed, that voting doesn't matter, and that public demonstrations like ours are 'false flag attacks' and are futile," Braynard told NBC News.

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