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Illustration by Security Management

Security Personnel on High-Alert for Saturday Rally at the U.S. Capitol

Security personnel are on alert and warning of the potential for violence ahead of a rally on Saturday to support people involved in the 6 January riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The Justice for J6 rally is being planned by former U.S. President Donald Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard’s organization, “Look Ahead America.” The rally is designed to support individuals charged in the 6 January riot and is “dedicated to standing up for patriotic Americans who have been forgotten by our government,” according to its website.

In interviews ahead of the rally, Braynard has said the event will be peaceful and has discouraged bringing weapons. CNN reports, however, that a Proud Boys leader has encouraged members to attend the rally, as well as the White Lives Matter group. Approximately 700 people are expected to be in attendance. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated the Saturday rally as a Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) 3 event, making it an “event of national and/or international importance that requires only limited federal support.”

In a bulletin obtained by ABC News, DHS said it was not aware of any specific or credible plots of violence associated with the 18 September rally but there have been online threats of violence. 

“Lone offenders and small groups of individuals can mobilize to violence with little-to-no warning, particularly in response to confrontational encounters with perceived opponents or calls for escalation by key influencers,” the DHS bulletin said. “The likely use of encrypted or closed communication platforms by those seeking to commit violence challenges law enforcement’s ability to identify and disrupt potential plotting.”

Throughout the week, security and law enforcement bolstered the defenses outside of the U.S. Capitol—where the Saturday rally is to be held—including putting up fencing around the grounds to secure the perimeter. The fencing is similar to the barriers erected after the 6 January attack.

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Board also issued an emergency declaration ahead of the 18 September rally, which allows it to deputize outside law enforcement officers as U.S. CP Special Officers.

“We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” said USCP Chief Tom Manger in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from the local community and our Congressional stakeholders as we carry out our critical mission.” 

Following the 6 January riots, USCP and other security personnel came under intense scrutiny for the failures that allowed a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

In response, USCP has made some changes to improve its posture to address security incidents, including creating a Critical Incident Response Plan, acquiring additional equipment and technology, and creating a department-wide operation planning process.

The department has also held planning meetings ahead of the 18 September rally and engaged in more robust information sharing with law enforcement partners, Congress, and its own officers.

Investigations are ongoing into the 6 January riot, which left five people dead, hundreds injured, and many who work at the U.S. Capitol traumatized. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged more than 600 individuals for their involvement, including 185 people accused of assaulting or impeding law enforcement.

Most recently, Jason Dolan, 45, of Wellington, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of an official proceeding for attempting to stop the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results.

“According to court documents, Jason Dolan, 45, of Wellington, planned his activities on January 6 in advanced coordination with individuals and affiliates of the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized group of individuals, some of whom have ties to militias,” the DOJ said in a press release. 

U.S. authorities are also continuing to search for the individuals who placed pipe bombs at both the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., on 5 January. The FBI has increased its reward to $100,000 for information that leads to the location, arrest, and conviction of the individual responsible.

“We know it is hard to report information about a friend or family member, but these pipe bombs were viable devices that could have detonated, causing innocent bystanders to be seriously injured or killed. Your tip could be the one that prevents this person from harming themselves or anyone else,” said Steven M. D'Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, in a press release.