Hundreds of protesters took to the United States Capitol grounds in Washington, DC on Saturday, demanding the release of those incarcerated following the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol that led to hundreds of cases criminal and little thought on the extreme right.

The event failed to draw the massive pro-Trump crowds that gathered in January, and the area was heavily guarded by law enforcement. The participants discussed the usual themes: complaining to the media and presenting themselves as victims of state persecution.

One speaker compared the treatment of rioters on Capitol Hill – including, notoriously, a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt – to the persecution of Jews under the Nazi regime. Calling the DC prison a “gulag,” she read a letter which she said came from an imprisoned rioter, who complained, “It reminds me of how the Jewish people were treated by the Nazis.”

As the crowd gathered in Union Square on the Capitol grounds, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” sounded over the loudspeakers.

Tensions have erupted from time to time with the counter-demonstrators. A man claiming to be an Afghanistan veteran showed up with a megaphone and spoke negatively about Trump and COVID. The crowd rushed towards him and a man accused him of stealing bravery. The Capitol police had to intervene to prevent the violence.

Counter-demonstrators have made their presence known.

Pedro Ugarte / Getty

Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally believe those still being held at DC prison for their alleged role in the attacks – which unsuccessfully sought to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president despite a clear election victory – are languishing in conditions. unconstitutional and held as political prisoners.

They also somehow wonder if the FBI played a role in the attack, even though they downplay the unprecedented attack on the rule of law that day.

“We have nearly a hundred people who were nonviolent protesters held in solitary confinement,” said Matt Braynard, former Donald Trump campaign staff and lead organizer of the event, in a video making promoting the event. “All of this for going through an open door and then going out, never putting your finger on anyone or causing violence.”

DC Department of Corrections director Quincy Booth told the Daily Beast that all January 6 inmates were treated with “dignity and respect.”

“All residents have access to health services to treat any illness or medical emergency suffered while in detention,” Booth said in an email. “Residents benefit from out-of-cell time, recreation and visits as permitted by COVID-19 health restrictions that may be in place or the conditions of their confinement. DOC also provides residents with access and the opportunity to meet with their lawyers or legal representatives.

The crowd at the rally in support of the imprisoned MAGA rioters was not huge.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Getty

After apparently expressing either indifference or a desire to distance himself from a possible aftermath of the deadly insurgency on his behalf, Trump himself issued a statement on Thursday with words of support for the detainees.

“Our hearts and minds are with those so unfairly persecuted in connection with the January 6 protest over the rigged presidential election,” Trump said. “It has conclusively proven that we are a two tier justice system. Ultimately, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL. ”

The Jan. 6 attack began after those who participated in a Trump “Stop the Steal” conspiracy rally near the White House, falsely alleging electoral fraud last fallmarched to the United States Capitol as Congress voted to certify the results of the 2020 election. At the rally, President Trump said the election was “stolen” and told supporters that s ‘they were not “fighting like a devil”, they “(would) have no more countries”.

After rally fans reach the Capitol, under-equipped and overwhelmed US Capitol Police officers protecting the building were shot in the head, pushed down the stairs and stabbed. The Capitol Police were eventually backed up by the National Guard and a few hours later the building was secured.

Soon after, a large fence was erected around the Capitol building. Five people died in the attack and several officers committed suicide in the months that followed.

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The scene of the Justice for J6 rally in Washington, DC on September 18, 2021 where protesters and counter-protesters gathered to clash over the plight of the pro-Trump rioters who ransacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 .

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

Tensions have been high on Capitol Hill since the Jan.6 collapse, and several bizarre incidents have sparked a lingering atmosphere of anxiety in Washington.

In April, a man rammed his car into a Capitol Hill police officer, killing him in an attack that appears to have no ideological connection to January 6. But last month a man from North Carolina A MAGA fan parked his truck in front of the Library of Congress and demanded airstrikes against the Taliban, claiming to have a bomb. (The man eventually surrendered to the police and no one was hurt.)

Just days before the Justice for J6 rally, Capitol policemen arrested a man with a machete and a truck painted with Nazi symbols who purported to be “patrolling” South Capitol Street.

Although the fence around the Capitol was taken down in July, it was rebuilt ahead of Saturday’s show. And according to to Charles Allen, a local politician with the District of Columbia Council who represents an area including Capitol Hill, residents were nervous as the rally approached.

“We saw not only an attack on our democracy, but an attack on our neighborhood and our community on January 6,” Allen told The Daily Beast. “Groups who want to whitewash what happened that day, to try to make it appear that somehow the people who tried to cancel the elections in our country and tried to trampling on our community… (are) a peaceful group… It goes against what we have seen and experienced.

Adding to the uproar, according to the National Park Service, the Braynard Look Ahead America group did not have a permit for a rally on the National Mall, although it was not clear whether the rally would sink deep into that property.

Geraldine Lovell from Maryland weeps under a tree during the “Justice for J6” rally.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Getty

In the weeks leading up to Justice for J6, the Department of Homeland Security issued a newscast who warned against “calls to violence on multiple online platforms associated with … conspiracy theories on perceived electoral fraud and alleged reinstatement …”

That said, a senior FBI official indicated last week that the agency was not aware of any specific violent conspiracies related to the rally.

And despite fears of violence during the protests, several far-right groups whose members attended the January 6 protests urged supporters to stay away from Saturday’s protest, often claiming without evidence that it was was a government plan to trap Trump supporters.

The far-right men’s group Proud Boys claimed its members would not attend the rally and threatened to excommunicate any Proud Boys who did. Ron Watkins, a far-right figure who has been accused to be behind the QAnon conspiracy theory, urged his audience to “do themselves a favor” and avoid Washington during the rally.

Saturday’s rally also lacked support from much of the pro-Trump media, as well as Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress. While Trump at least endorsed the idea of ​​demonstrating outside Congress on January 6, even mistakenly claiming that he would meet protesters outside Capitol Hill, nearly every right-wing figure has denounced the Braynard event or ignored it.

While Braynard has claimed members of Congress will speak at the rally, no lawmaker has publicly committed to appear in advance. (Congressional candidates Mike Collins and Joe Kent took the stage to speak.)

Casey Crawford, 28, came from Idaho and compared the MAGA rallies to the anti-brutality protests last summer.

“Would people have stopped rioting if George Floyd’s death had not been mended? Crawford said. “They would never have stopped revolting. So why should we stop coming together whenever justice is not served? That’s America’s best interests.

Steve Rusciano, 58, of Georgetown, Delaware, said the continued imprisonment of the defendants on Jan.6 had not prompted him to attend.

“I’m more here to support the United States,” Rusciano said. “I don’t like what’s going on in this country. Like, God forbid you take the pledge of allegiance or have a flag. It’s terrible. “


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