As Sept. 18 rally approaches, violent language ramps up online

Capitol Police chief will brief congressional leaders about situation

Insurrectionists attempt to enter the Capitol at the House steps during a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Insurrectionists attempt to enter the Capitol at the House steps during a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 8, 2021 at 6:01pm

As Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger prepares to brief congressional leaders on a potentially violent rally scheduled for Sept. 18, an internal department assessment reveals more violent online discussion around the event and increased attendance numbers for the demonstration. 

The intelligence assessment, dated Sept. 7, notes that in recent days, the department and partner agencies have found more violent online talk surrounding the #JusticeForJ6 rally, organized by Look Ahead America. The event seeks to support pro-Trump rioters who were jailed for their roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

A discussion thread on the far-right site 4chan includes calls to “do justice” against “local jews and corrupted officials.” It also says the demonstration should be used as a vehicle to participate in violent acts against local “Jewish centers and Liberal churches” while law enforcement is distracted.

Another comment from the thread reads, “I will be there with my AR15 even though legally I can’t have one f*** the Demonrats.” (ed. note: asterisks inserted by CQ Roll Call)

Look Ahead America, a group led by former Trump campaign employee Matt Braynard, asked for a permit in Union Square at noon on Sept. 18 for 700 participants, a number that has risen from 500.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to a security briefing by Manger regarding the Sept. 18 rally. The briefing will be held on Monday at 11:15 a.m. in the Speaker’s Office, a source familiar told CQ Roll Call.

In response to questions about preparations for the Sept. 18 rally, Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that “we intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact.” She later lamented that the group is coming to Capitol Hill.

“And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress,” Pelosi said.

Out of the nine members of Congress who have been invited to attend the rally, seven said they are not going. Those who said they are not attending are Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Mike Lee of Utah and GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. CQ Roll Call has not independently verified whether Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., will attend.

Two Republican members have yet to say whether they would attend: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida. 

Braynard has said Look Ahead America is focused on “demanding justice” for “political prisoners” and for Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist who was fatally shot on Jan. 6 by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd as she was attempting to breach the Speaker’s Lobby through a broken window. 

The Capitol Police’s Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division and partner agencies “have seen an uptick in discussions in support of the rally, particularly after USCP Lt. Michael Byrd’s media interview,” according to the internal document.

Babbitt’s death has been cast as a form of martyrdom by far-right groups.

The Capitol Police assessment references the above Twitter account, which posted an apparent depiction of Babbitt draped in a “Kekistan” flag with a Kek logo halo in the background. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Kek as a “tribal marker of the alt-right.”

The department’s intelligence memo notes that the image’s symbolism “appears to suggest that adherents to the far-right ideology view Babbitt as a martyr for their cause and it may be possible that these individuals are more inclined to attend events that appear to be memorializing her or the January 6th insurrection.”

The J4J6Campaign Twitter account uses a design similar to the Blood Drop Cross, a symbol the department notes is used by the Ku Klux Klan. The account also has a “faint stylized version of the Celtic Cross which is commonly used by neo-Nazis and white supremacist extremists,” according to the assessment.

The document makes note of some interest shown in the event by far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and White Lives Matter.

It also identified counterprotest planning. Remora House DC put out an alert that states, “Fascists coming back to DC Sept. 18 for a rally at Union Square Plaza (west Capitol grounds) to support Capitol rioters that have been arrested ... More details on how to get involved coming soon.” The document further notes that the call for counterprotesters has been shared by groups such as the DC Youth Liberation Front, which has affiliate chapters that have advocated for violence. It goes on to say the groups promoting counterprotests have shared posts that include anti-police language.

The assessment at the end of the document says that the “increased violent rhetoric seen on discussion boards and social media from individuals across the political spectrum is cause for concern surrounding the September 18th protest.”

In a statement, the Capitol Police said it has a “robust security posture planned for September 18th” and added that “all available staff will be working.”

An officer told CQ Roll Call, on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about sensitive matters, that most of the officers on duty will not have the gear they need, such as gas masks to protect them from chemical irritants that were prevalent on Jan. 6.

When asked if all department officers will have full riot gear and gas masks for the rally, the Capitol Police issued the following statement: “After January 6, the Department acquired new helmets, shields and less-than-lethal munitions. Additional equipment was promptly ordered after Congress passed the Emergency Security Supplemental Act of 2021. The Chief is confident the Department, and our law enforcement partners, have the training and necessary equipment for upcoming demonstrations.”