Closing back on Capitol Hill amid online discussion about the rally | New policies

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By MARY CLARE JALONICK, MICHAEL BALSAMO and COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congressional security officials have approved the relocation of a temporary fence around the Capitol as they prepare for a rally on Saturday to defend the rioters who stormed the building on January 6 .

Capitol Police said in a statement officials were “aware of online discussions” regarding the protest. While it remains unclear how large the rally will be and whether members of domestic extremist groups will participate, security officials say they will be ready in the event of a disturbance. They want to avoid the mistakes of January 6, when officers were unprepared for the siege and were overwhelmed by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Police are bracing for possible violent clashes at Saturday’s rally and anticipate the possibility of protesters arriving with weapons, according to three people familiar with the preparations. Agents monitor hotel reservations, flights, car rental reservations, and charter buses to bring groups to Washington.

Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said in a statement his force “will enforce the law and will not tolerate violence.”

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The announcement came hours after Manger and other security officials briefed congressional leaders on preparations and plans for a temporary fence, which were first reported Thursday by The Associated Press. Leaving the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he felt law enforcement was “ready for whatever might happen” on Saturday.

“I think they’re well prepared, thorough, professional, and I think they’re better prepared than people were before January 6,” Schumer said.

It also came after Capitol Hill police arrested a man who had a bayonet and machete in his van outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters just after midnight Monday morning. The man, Donald Craighead of Oceanside, Calif., Had a swastika and other symbols of white supremacy painted on his truck and told officers he was “on patrol.” Police said it was not clear if he planned to attend any upcoming protests.

The Capitol Police Board, a three-person panel of congressional security officials, on Monday approved the plan to temporarily install the fence around the inner perimeter of the Capitol complex. A similar fence was erected just after January 6 and dismantled in July. The board also issued a declaration of emergency that will allow the department to replace outside law enforcement officers if necessary.

“We want to reassure everyone, these are temporary measures to ensure everyone’s safety,” Manger said in the statement.

Many members of Congress applauded the removal of the fence in July, as it meant the public could once again enjoy the Capitol grounds. While some lawmakers questioned the complex’s continued vulnerability, others argued that the Capitol region should be open to everyone, regardless of the risk.

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., And Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, head of an expenditure committee that oversees the Capitol Police, said in a joint statement that they believe law enforcement had developed “a clear plan – based on careful intelligence analysis – to maintain order and protect public safety.” They said they would support the temporary fence.

“Given the violent tendencies of right-wing extremists who plan to attend, it is evident that this rally poses a threat to the Capitol, those who work there and the police charged with protecting our democracy,” said DeLauro and Ryan. in the statement.

Police have followed reports that far-right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers plan to attend next week’s rally, which aims to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been indicted in the rally. part of the January uprising. Proud Boys frontman Enrique Tarrio, however, said he didn’t expect his members to attend.

Police are monitoring online discussions of Ashli ​​Babbitt’s death, in particular, as she prepares for the rally. Babbitt was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer in the Jan.6 attack as she attempted to break into an area immediately adjacent to the House chamber while lawmakers were still trapped in the inside. Some of Trump’s supporters – and Trump himself – have described her as a martyr, while the Justice Department and Capitol Police have cleared the officer who shot her.

There has been growing talk of “justice” for Babbitt’s death and those who might attend the rally for that purpose may be more likely to commit violence, according to people familiar with the preparations. Police are also aware of some posts that threaten religious institutions, including Jewish centers.

Dozens of officers from the Capitol Police and the Washington Metropolitan Police Department were brutally beaten as hundreds of insurgents – including members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – broke into the Capitol on January 6. lack of preparation, lack of leadership and lack of good intelligence predicting what was to come.

Manger, a former suburban Washington police chief, took office as Capitol Hill chief in July.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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