Police vastly outnumbered protesters around the US Capitol on Saturday at a sparsely attended rally by supporters of the people who breached the building on Jan. 6, trying to overturn former President Donald Trump’s election defeat.
Hundreds of officers patrolled the Capitol grounds and a black eight-foot-high (2.44 m) fence which surrounded the white-domed building for about six months after the attack was reinstalled in anticipation of the event. One hundred National Guard troops were on standby.
About 100 to 200 protesters showed up, some carrying the flags of the right-wing group Three Percenters over their shoulders. It was far fewer than the 700 people organizers had expected and the thousands who brought mayhem to the Capitol on Jan. 6.
As part of an effort by some of Trump’s far-right supporters to rewrite the history of the deadly mob assault on the Capitol that was captured in graphic video, speaker after speaker insisted that hundreds of rioters arrested that day were “political prisoners.”
Prosecutors and legal experts say the cases are being handled properly.
“This is about justice and disparate treatment,” said Matt Braynard, a rally organizer and supporter of Trump’s false claims that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud.
While crowds were small, passions rose at times, with sporadic yelling matches breaking out between participants in the rally and counter-demonstrators. Police on bicycles moved in to break up some of these squabbles.
A group of police in riot gear removed one man from the crowd who had a large knife strapped to his hip.
Tony Smith, 40, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said he had come to voice his support for a fair judicial process for those charged in the breach of the Capitol.
Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally called for a peaceful event, but US Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told reporters on Friday there had been threats of violence linked to the rally, some targeting individual members of Congress, and police were bracing to prevent clashes between Trump supporters and opponents.
“If we don’t honor that we don’t honor America,” said Smith, who was carrying a poster board that said “We Want Trump!”