As Capitol security officials gird for Saturday’s pro-Trump rally in Washington, lawmakers and their aides have been given a simple directive: steer clear of the building.
“Unless required to be onsite, Members and staff are strongly encouraged to avoid the U.S. Capitol Complex on September 18th,” House Sergeant at Arms William Walker wrote in a memo sent chamber-wide on Tuesday evening.
If they must visit Capitol Hill on Saturday, House lawmakers and their employees should park in underground garages and move between buildings by way of underground tunnels, rather than walking outside, Walker advised.
The blunt guidance is just the latest step adopted by security officials to prevent Saturday’s protest from devolving into the same type of violent melee that occurred on Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a failed effort to overturn his election defeat.
Roughly 140 police officers were injured in the riot. Another officer died a day later, after engaging with the mob. And four additional officers have died by suicide in the subsequent months.
In the immediate wake of the deadly event, the Capitol’s top security officials — including the head of the Capitol Police force and the sergeants at arms in both chambers — all resigned. Eight months later, their replacements are scrambling to ensure that history doesn’t repeat at Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally, which aims to protest the treatment of the hundreds of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot.
On Monday, Walker and Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger briefed the top congressional leaders about both the latest intelligence on the threat posed by Saturday’s rally and their efforts to combat potential violence during the event.
Those steps include the reinstallation of the imposing, seven-foot fence encircling the Capitol and other parts of the complex, which was installed in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Meanwhile, organizers of Saturday’s protest appear to be taking steps of their own to promote a peaceful event. On Tuesday, Matt Braynard, an organizer and former Trump campaign staffer, asked participants not to wear symbols or slogans endorsing former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE — a far cry from the dynamics on Jan. 6, when protesters displayed all manner of Trump flags, hats, clothing and paraphernalia.
“We request that anybody attending our events not wear any clothing or have signs supportive of either President Trump or Biden,” Braynard wrote.
“Anyone not honoring this request will be assumed to be an infiltrator and we will take your picture, find out who you are, and make you famous.”