Washington

‘Justice for J6’ rally scares Washington but organizers call it a civil rights action

The organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally scheduled for Saturday at the U.S. Capitol say they are spotlighting the “immoral” treatment of people charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.

The rally is expected to bring about 600 people to Capitol Hill amid fresh allegations that accused rioters suffer harsh treatment in jails and are being denied due process in the legal system.

“Our motivation is to raise the profile of our fellow Americans who are having their civil rights abused, being denied their constitutional rights, and are being treated as political prisoners,” said Matt Braynard, the main organizer behind the rally.

Mr. Braynard, who is also a former Trump campaign operative and the executive director of the nonprofit Look Ahead America, echoes the concerns of a handful of House lawmakers who have alleged that jailed rioters are being treated unfairly due to their support for former President Donald Trump.

A Rasmussen Reports poll found that almost half of U.S. voters align with that view, with 49% of likely voters agreeing that protesters arrested in connection to Jan. 6 are “political prisoners.”

Among those polled, 30% strongly agreed with that idea, while 42% disagreed and 33% strongly disagreed, according to the poll that was released Tuesday.

The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Washington officials are treating the rally as a threat.

A fence around the U.S. Capitol is set to go up ahead of the rally, a feature that was erected after the Jan. 6 riot and taken down in July.

The U.S. Capitol Police said they asked the Department of Defense for the ability to receive National Guard support should the need arise on Saturday.

District Police are preparing to have an “increased presence” around the city and say they “will be fully prepared” for the rally.

Many Republicans have distanced themselves from the upcoming rally, including lawmakers who have advocated on behalf of imprisoned rioters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said he didn’t expect any of his members to attend the rally.

Mr. Braynard said the lack of support makes the elected leaders look out of touch with the political reality in the country.

“Half of America is on our side of the issue,” Mr. Braynard said. “I’ve also seen internal polling that shows that among GOP voters, they’re completely in line with the Justice for J6 movement.”

A couple of Republican candidates seeking office plan to join the rally.

Mike Collins, a candidate for Georgia’s 10th district, is scheduled to speak at the rally. He said he wanted to advocate for people’s constitutional rights that he thinks are being violated.

“People need their day in court,” Mr. Collins said. “Whatever they’ve done or been accused of doing, I’m not part of that. But I am saying they need their constitutional rights upheld.”

The Jan. 6 riot resulted in the deaths of four pro-Trump demonstrators. A Capitol Police officer also died of a stroke, which a medical examiner later ruled was death by natural causes.

Two other Capitol Police officers died by suicide in the days following the riot.

More than 500 people have been arrested and charged in connection to the storming of the Capitol, many of whom have been released as they await trial.

Some of those who are behind bars have alleged being subject to excessively harsh treatment, including abuse and unjustified solitary confinement.

Albert Watkins is a St. Louis-based lawyer representing four defendants from the riot, including “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley. He said the Justice Department rushed into the prosecutions before a full investigation was complete. He also accused the government of cherry-picking evidence.

The lawyer also said Mr. Chansley’s mental health vulnerabilities were not taken into full consideration, adding that his client is currently spending up to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

He said the treatment of his client approaches that of a political prisoner, but he blamed it on Mr. Chansley becoming the face of the Jan. 6 riot with his red, white, and blue face paint and a fur hat.

“I don’t blame it on his political beliefs. I blame it on the fact that he, for better or for worse, won the best costume contest of the day for Jan. 6,” Mr. Watkins said.

Mr. Chansley, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this month for one count of obstruction of an official proceeding for his role in the riot.

As far as the rally goes, Mr. Watkins said it is justified as long as it’s peaceful and not a repeat of what happened nine months ago.

“I do think it’s noble if it is done in a fashion that is peaceful and constitutes the constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech,” Mr. Watkins said. “If it’s being done to create an epilogue to Jan. 6, that’s not right.”

Other defense attorneys familiar with rioters’ cases said privately that the rally was a bad idea and wouldn’t help the cause of those still behind bars.

The rally is scheduled to begin at noon Saturday on the west side of the Capitol grounds. Another 17 sister rallies are scheduled to take place Saturday outside state legislatures across the country.

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