US Capitol Police and the FBI are on high alert ahead of a rally in Washington, DC, planned on September 18 to show support for those arrested after the January 6 pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill. , an event that continues to shape American politics. .
The protesters’ message: The rioters arrested on January 6 in the Capitol rape are “political prisoners” who are being unfairly prosecuted by the FBI and the Justice Department. They claim that Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter and QAnon adherent who was shot by police while being part of a mob storming the Capitol trying to reach lawmakers, was wrongfully murdered on January 6.
Hosted by a former member of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign staff and tagged with the hashtag # JusticeforJ6, the rally in Washington, DC, has a permit allowing 500 people to gather.
Two more # JusticeforJ6 rallies are planned in North Carolina and Washington state on the same day, with 14 more scheduled in other states on September 25 and one on October 2.
“We are going to speak out in defense of our fellow citizens whose rights and due process have been violated,” said rally planner Matt Braynard in a video posted on his organization, the Look Ahead America website.
“We are going to speak out demanding justice for Ashli Babbitt and for the government to clarify any involvement the FBI had in the events of January 6,” Braynard said, referring to a false conspiracy theory circulating the right. -To the media that the FBI agents planned and executed the attack on the Capitol.
On January 6, thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump marched toward the United States Capitol as Congress met in a joint session to formally ratify the election of Joe Biden as president.
They invaded police barricades, forced their way into the building and prowled the corridors, vandalized offices and chased US lawmakers into hiding in secure rooms.
The FBI has methodically combed images from social media and used the information to hunt down and arrest more than 600 people in 44 states. Of these, more than 185 have been accused of assaulting or obstructing the police.
Representing the rioters as “political prisoners” is a propaganda tool reminiscent of the Republican indictments of the 1980s against Communist bloc countries, said Monika Nalepa, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.
“By accentuating how a peaceful demonstration is going to be and how it is going to defend the prisoners, they are definitely trying to put a more general spin on this,” Nalepa told Al Jazeera.
The FBI continues to search for dozens more and has offered a $ 100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone who planted tube bombs in two political offices on Capitol Hill.
Braynard said the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill was not an insurrection but rather a “largely peaceful” political demonstration. Experts and video evidence dispute it.
“We’re at a really different point where America hasn’t been for probably a century,” said Gary LaFree, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland.
“We have seen this kind of violent, ideologically driven exchange during the Civil War (1861-1865) and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. There are several things about American politics right now that I find really disturbing about the future. of democracy and this certainly highlights that, ”LaFree said.
The protest in Washington, DC, will take place where the National Mall meets the Capitol grounds in an area called Union Square that is separated from the Capitol by a reflecting pool. It will be monitored by private security hired by the organizers.
It is unclear what kind of assistance the rally will attract. Leaders of far-right groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who were prominent instigators of the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, have told the media that they do not plan to attend the # JusticeforJ6 rally.
Former US President Donald Trump called the rally a “setup” for Republican voters, in an interview Thursday with the Federalist, a conservative news site.
“If people don’t show up, they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a lack of spirit.’ And if people show up, they will be harassed, ”he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the planned # JusticeforJ6 rally for supporting the people who came to the United States Capitol on January 6 to kill her, Vice President Mike Pence and other political leaders.
The US Capitol Police has briefed members of Congress warning of an increase in violent discussion online on alternative chat sites like 4chan, including calls to “bring justice” against “local Jews and corrupt officials.” according to Roll Call, a Congressional media outlet.
US law enforcement intelligence indicates that some members of far-right groups plan to attend the rally, the Associated Press reported. Capitol Police have requested endorsement from the United States Department of Defense.
“It shows, at the very least, that the far right is still mobilized to some degree,” said Kurt Braddock, an American University professor who studies political extremism.
The # JusticeforJ6 message reflects what pro-Trump Republicans like House of Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar are doing to attract right-wing support with “little winks and nods” and “dog whistles,” he said. Braddock to Al Jazeera.
“They deliberately pander to the far-right guys, but only in a way that they have a kind of plausible denial. They can walk backwards so they can continue to maintain mainstream support, ”Braddock said.
With Trump banned from Twitter and without the megaphone of the presidency, he cannot generate significant interest in events like # JusticeforJ6 rallies.
But it is still meant to help support his continuing claims that the 2020 elections were stolen through voter fraud – claims that have no factual basis and have been repeatedly rejected in court.
“This is an attempt to keep alive ‘The Big Lie’ that the election was stolen,” said Carolyn Gallaher, dean of the American University School of International Service.
“This is a way of trying to win sympathy by saying ‘Oh look, these poor people are still in prison,’ but it’s not really about them,” Gallaher told Al Jazeera.
“What they’re trying to do is keep the fires burning so that maybe they can get Trump to run for president again in 2024. It’s about keeping the momentum going from MAGA.”
Braynard turned down an Al Jazeera request for an interview and questioned any characterization that the rally would be a “right wing” event.
On his website, he has asked rally attendees not to display Trump flags or other insignia and to keep their “red, white and blue” signs and clothing focused on “patriotism.”
The objective, he said, is “to raise awareness about this tragedy of this serious violation of the civil rights of hundreds of our compatriots.”