Right-wing protesters held a rally in Washington, DC on Saturday to protest the arrest of the rioters involved in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
Security was quickly mobilized long before the rally. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned of potential violence that could emanate from the protesters.
In the unclassified secret service letter, the DHS also warned of the possibility that some demonstrators could use the rally as an opportunity to commit hate-motivated crimes. In particular, the letter indicated that some social media users incited anti-Semitic acts while discussing the rally’s logistics.
“Other indications of violence identified on social media include discussions about using the rally to target Jewish institutions and ‘liberal churches’,” the intelligence letter read.
Officials have taken several steps to ensure that sufficient security measures are in place so that Capitol officials do not have to stand alone as they did on Jan. 6. On Wednesday, the DC National Guard was contacted by Capitol Police and while details of the security measures were not leaked, CNN reported that the National Guard was ready to mobilize quickly in the event of an escalation, according to a known source.
The mobilization of the National Guard was already a major difference between how the Saturday protests were dealt with and the January 6 riots. During the January 6 riots, the National Guard was unable to mobilize quickly enough because it did not have permission from the Pentagon.
“The high-ranking army commanders said that [mobilizing the national guard] ‘didn’t look good’ and wouldn’t be ‘good looks’, “said Maj. General William J. Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, in his testimony before Congress.
“They went on to say that it might stir up the crowd.”
Even so, this time the National Guard was not needed for the protest, as it was largely peaceful and the turnout was much lower than estimated. Fewer than 100 protesters showed up, according to the New York Times. That is significantly fewer than the 700 people expected by the organizers who had to submit an attendance estimate in order to receive approval.
In total, the Capitol police reported around 400 people in the area. The total includes journalists, photographers, protesters and counter-demonstrators, but excludes law enforcement officers.
As claimed by the rally organizers, the low attendance was due to the fear of prosecution protesters may have felt when they saw such a massive mobilization of the security forces.
“It’s a shame about the people and the system that scare American citizens not to come out,” said Cara Castronuova, co-founder of Citizens Against Political Persecution and one of the groups present at the rally, to the crowd.
Others have advocated the presence of security at the event, with many suggesting that the number of rioters outnumbered officials was one of the reasons the January 6 riot was so violent.
Although it was mostly peaceful, four arrests were made during the rally. Three men were charged with illegal gun possession and one with parole violation.