DC rally in support of those who stormed the Capitol puts Jewish officials on high alert

JTA – A rally in Washington, DC scheduled for Saturday in solidarity with those who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, puts local officials and Jews on high alert.

The “Justice for D6” rally, organized by former Donald Trump campaign member Matt Braynard, plans to rally outside the US Capitol and demand an end to what he calls “tyrannical and inhuman treatment political prisoners of January 6. . “

Rather than a group intending to violate Capitol Hill to overthrow a Democratic election, Braynard said all but a few “bad apples” in the insurgency were “nonviolent offenders” who didn’t think they were violating. the law.

Braynard said his rally would not be violent, but police in the capital are on high alert and have mobilized all of their staff. But as local Jewish institutions brace for the possibility of violence as well, security officials say Saturday’s rally is likely to be much smaller and less dangerous than the insurgency on Capitol Hill, which has left five dead and over. 500 arrests.

“I don’t think it’s going to be like Jan. 6, not even close,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, although she added that “we have no idea loneliness the violence of the actors.

According to official authorization for the rally and police estimates, the crowd will number around 700, a far cry from the tens of thousands who showed up at the rallies on January 6. Unlike January, when extremist groups organized to attend in groups, this time extremist groups are using messaging apps like Telegram to tell their supporters to stay away, fearing they will be arrested.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they attempt to storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021 (Joseph Prezioso / AFP)

In January, then-President Donald Trump encouraged rioters, telling spectators to “fight like hell” and “get to Capitol Hill” before their march on Capitol Hill. This time he is no longer in the White House and is sending mixed messages. He said in an interview that Saturday’s rally could be “a setup” in which participants will be “harassed”. But in a statement Thursday, he endorsed the rally’s message, saying, “Our hearts and minds are with those so unjustly persecuted in connection with the January 6 protest over the rigged presidential election.”

But just in case violence breaks out, police said they were taking great precautions and had erected a security perimeter around the Capitol. After the January Capitol riot, police were accused of failing to respond adequately to the threat, and the chief and second-tier Capitol Police official resigned. In March, an officer was suspended after a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was found near his work area.

“From the chatter we heard before Jan. 6, a lot of those threats actually turned out to be credible, so we’re not taking any chances,” said J. Thomas Manger, the new Capitol Police chief. But regarding extremist groups, he later added, “We are seeing mixed messages as to whether people are coming or not.”

United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger holds a press conference to discuss preparations for a weekend rally planned by Donald Trump’s allies who support so-called “political prisoners” of the January 6 attack on the Capitol on Friday, September 17, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington, (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

Jewish security officials and extremism watchdogs say the same: They are concerned about potential violence, but they are unaware of any specific threats to Jews or Jewish institutions . A Department of Homeland memo said plans for the rally included discussions on “using the rally to target local Jewish institutions, elected officials and” liberal churches. “

“Some chatter online has suggested that because the police force has been so immobilized, this presents an opportunity to attack Jewish organizations or other places of worship,” said Michael Masters, CEO of Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish Institutions. Masters added that there was currently no credible anti-Semitic threat to his knowledge, but said: “There is a general feeling that we need to be engaged and proactive.”

For months before the January 6 rally, security officials inside and outside the Jewish community issued a series of warnings about election-related violence and its aftermath. Immediately before January 6, Jewish security groups expressed concern about possible violence, although they later said there was no credible threat to Jewish institutions. And although Jews were not the target of the attack, it attracted neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists, as well as placards with a range of hate symbols.

Robert Keith Packer’s shirt, right, was one of many symbols of hatred present during the capture of the Capitol. Other rioters have built a noose. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP Images and screenshot from Reddit via JTA)

“When you’ve organized groups that basically tell people to stay home, it’s going to have an impact,” said Oren Segal, who heads the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “This does not mean that the self-identified members of these groups will not show up. It’s still possible, but unlike the chorus of voices we heard before January 6th.

Even if that doesn’t lead to violence, Segal says Saturday’s rally still has troubling long-term implications.

“This is an event that essentially describes the individuals who attacked the Capitol and our democracy as political prisoners,” he said. “When you talk about political prisoners, government overbreadth and illegitimacy of accountability, these are all heated stories for extremists. “

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