Protesters hold 'Justice for J6' rally at US Capitol

Shielded police officers stand alongside the speakers' platform for the "Justice for J6" rally, one block away from the US Capitol in Washington on Saturday. Around 200 pro-Trump people rallied in support of people arrested in the Jan 6 attack against the Capitol. [Photo by Yifan Xu/China Daily]

Around 200 people rallied in the US Capitol on Saturday in support of people arrested in the Jan 6 attack against the Capitol and were met by hundreds of police officers, dump trucks that kept them off streets and fencing around buildings to protect them.

A permit for the rally indicated 700 people would attend, while intelligence suggested numbers closer to 300-500. However, 100 to 200 protesters showed up. It was basically a non-violent protest. Small groups of counter protesters yelled at the demonstrators while police intervened to avoid a confrontation. Capitol police arrested a man with a knife for a weapons violation and detained another with a handgun.

Several police officers with shields stood alongside the rally speakers' platform, one block from the Capitol. Overall, police appear to have been over-prepared for the rally.

The Jan 6 riots were so destructive that authorities were on high alert to avoid a similar situation. Earlier this week, the Homeland Security Department expected some protesters from last year's uprising to attend.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin placed 100 National Guard troops on standby to help police protect the Capitol. Protective fencing also was added to the Supreme Court building ahead of the Saturday rally. China Daily saw visitors insert smartphones and cameras into the fence holes to take photos.

Other rallies were held on Saturday n North Carolina and Washington State. According to the news site Axios, far-right groups like the "Proud Boys" and "Oath Keepers" are planning "Justice for J6" rallies in 18 regions of the US on Sept 25..

Approximately 600 people have been charged with crimes in connection with the Jan 6 violence, 63 of whom are awaiting trial.

The protesters on Saturday marched around Union Square Plaza and the West Lawn of the US Capitol, expressing their support for the Jan 6 rioting at the Capitol building. They chanted "Guilty for Loving America."

George Rapley, 72, one of the demonstrators, held a sign that read "IS DEMOCRACY STILL AN AMERICAN VALUE?" Rapley told China Daily that he intends to remind people with different views that everyone agrees that something is wrong with American democracy, saying it is time to talk about fixing it rather than resorting to violence.

"People said to me it is too dangerous [that] I came here," said Doug Hughes, a Washington resident. "And I said, it is dangerous I suffered myself, but it is more dangerous for people to conduct crimes over the public vote," he told China Daily, holding a sign that read: "THERE IS NO RIGHT OF INSURRECTION."

Residents of the Capitol area might have had a sense of déjà vu when protective fencing went up around buildings earlier this week, part of the security measures for the rally.

"They started installing the fences about two days ago," police office Kaine, who asked that her full name not be given, told China Daily outside Capitol Hill on Friday. She was one of the responders to the Jan 6 riots and was one of the guards protecting the building at Saturday's rally.

Officer Robert, who also asked that his full name not be given, was on duty in the National Mall area on Jan 6. Most demonstrators in that area were peaceful, he said, but "there were some bad apples" .

"I see some rallies or protests, with different claims, almost every weekend, especially during summer. So, I am not nervous about tomorrow at all," he told China Daily outside the North Gate of the White House on Friday, holding a submachine gun while smiling.

On Jan 6, former president Donald Trump called thousands of his supporters to gather in Washington, to support his false claim that the 2020 presidential election had been "stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats". Insurgents urged vice-president Mike Pence and Congress to reject president-elect Joe Biden's victory. Supporters violently stormed Capitol Hill, disrupting the joint session of Congress convened to count electoral votes that would formalize Biden's victory.

Five people died surrounding the several hours that rioters occupied and vandalized Capitol Hill, including four Trump loyalists and one Capitol police officer. Numerous people were injured, including 138 police officers. In the following seven months, four officers would die by suicide.