Heavy police presence in Washington ahead of rally for Capitol riot defendants

Protesters were vastly outnumbered by law enforcement and security during the event.

The Capitol rally
The Capitol rally

A few hundred demonstrators have taken part in a rally in Washington, DC to support those charged over January’s riot at the US Capitol, but were vastly outnumbered by the media and a heavy police presence.

US Capitol police were taking no chances, with hundreds of officers brought into Washington in an effort to avoid a repeat of the attack prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president.

The fence around the Capitol was put back up, the city police force was fully activated and Capitol police requested assistance from the National Guard.

Police at the Capitol
Police maintain security on the East Plaza of the Capitol (AP)

There were a few scuffles as the rally started, but no major incidents reported were early on.

However, law enforcement officials remained on edge, concerned about the possibility of violent protesters and counter-protesters.

The rally was ringed by heavy trucks and took place in fields far from the Capitol building.

Capital Breach Rally
Police were geared for a repeat of the violence of January 6, but there were few signs of trouble early on (AP)

Law enforcement officers geared up at staging areas and metal barricades were placed around the streets.

Inside the Capitol, police riot shields were placed near doors and windows, a stark difference from January, when officers inside were left without riot equipment and quickly overwhelmed as the crowd stormed inside.

Officers are also preparing for the possibility that some demonstrators may arrive with weapons.

Police officers on bicycles
Police officers on bicycles keep watch (AP)

The rally comes amid persistent attempts to rewrite the narrative of the violence of January 6, and the increasing volatility behind the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Five people died during the Capitol riots, either before, during or just after the events.

Capitol Police have taken no chances for Saturday’s rally, and are working to avoid a repeat of the violence ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration as president.

The US Capitol
Five people died before, during or after the insurrection on January 6 (AP)

On Saturday morning, police were already working to separate the handful of supporters of Donald Trump and counter-protesters 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.

On the day of the riots, law enforcement officers were only expecting a free speech protest the day. Instead, supporters of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s victory over him in the November 2020 presidential poll.

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.

Capitol Breach Rally
A security fence has been put up ahead of the rally (AP)

The rally, organised by former Trump campaign employee Matt Braynard, is aimed at supporting people who were detained after the insurrection – about 63 held behind bars out of the more than 600 others charged in the deadly riot.

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 these groups have denied they are going and have also told others not to attend.

Far-right online posts have been generally tame, and Republican legislators are downplaying the event.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is still using his platform as the most popular leader in the Republican party to express sympathy for those who were arrested and to continue spreading election misinformation.

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