Thomas Manger, chief of the Capitol Police, pushed back on a reporter who insinuated that demonstrators planning to attend a Saturday rally to protest the continued incarceration of people arrested for the Jan. 6 riot may behave dangerously.
In a question-and-answer session Friday, Manger was asked by a reporter if any members of Congress were planning to attend the rally, but also to respond to claims that “the underlying purpose of this rally” is that attendees believe those arrested for breaching the Capitol Building earlier this year are “political prisoners.”
The chief responded by saying, then confirming with off-camera staff, that no members of Congress accepted invitations to the protest, though he did not say which ones.
As for those planning to attend the protest, Manger prefaced his response with, “you’re not gonna like my answer” before adding that “everybody’s got the right to free speech.”
“They can believe what they want to believe. I’m there to uphold the rule of law and make sure everybody’s safe,” Manger said.
The chief’s response matched that of D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee, who also said earlier in the briefing that Americans are free to exercise their First Amendment rights but that the city’s laws have to be followed in the process.
Manger also said that Capitol Police did not have any “specific intelligence” regarding potential threats ahead of the demonstration, but that did not stop his agency from reinstalling fencing around the U.S. Capitol Complex earlier this week ahead of the event.
“Capitol Police have installed temporary high-tech security cameras to allow them a vaster view of the Capitol complex. A Capitol security board on Monday approved a plan to reinstall a seven-foot fence around the main Capitol building, which had stood for months after January’s deadly assault,” The Hill reported Tuesday.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Manger noted in a statement after briefing reporters a day earlier. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
Former President Donald Trump has voiced support for those still being held in the D.C. jail months after their arrest following the riot, with many still awaiting court dates.
“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice,” he said in a statement released by his Save America PAC. “In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL.”
"Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice… pic.twitter.com/i5e0ID0Cox
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) September 16, 2021
But Trump has also voiced his skepticism of the rally, calling it a “setup.”
“On Saturday, that’s a setup,” Trump told The Federalist earlier this week. “If people don’t show up they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a lack of spirit.’ And if people do show up they’ll be harassed.”
Meanwhile, the event organizer, Matt Braynard, a former staffer with Trump’s 2020 campaign, has downplayed expectations of crowd size, saying that preparations being made in advance of it were meant to quell attendance.
“It’s all meant to deter people from coming,” he told USA Today in reference to the additional security measures being put in place. “It’s all about dragging down attendance. In the end, it might just be me and a bullhorn.”
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