September 18: How law enforcement officials hope to prevent another riot like January 6th
Criticism of the security flaws surrounding the riots in the U.S. Capitol last winter hit the minds of federal officials and law enforcement partners ahead of the right-wing rally on Saturday, leading to a concerted effort to avoid the mistakes made eight months ago, than the left front line officers who were unprepared for the spreading violence.
This time the officers are preparing for the worst and playing it safe. Unlike Jan 6, officials are aware of the threats related to Saturday’s event, which will be a much smaller gathering, with some spreading the false story that federal agencies will use the rally as an opportunity to Arrest participants.
Concern about this weekend’s rally was heightened by recent statements by former President Donald Trump, including one on Thursday defending the Capitol rioters as “so unfairly persecuted” and continuing false claims about the “rigged presidential election” Sustained Security officials have repeatedly warned that this will almost certainly lead to more violence by local extremists.
Security preparations began days in advance. The U.S. Capitol Police, which is the operational line for the rally, kept lawmakers abreast of the week, and the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police and others phoned state and local law enforcement agencies Thursday to clarify the situation discuss.
The DHS warning noted that the event organizers had received approval for 700 attendees in Washington, but media reports suggest that local authorities are expecting a smaller crowd.
One of the overarching lessons learned from Jan. 6 was to step up information sharing on potential threats so law enforcement agencies can take appropriate operational action, several security officials told CNN.
That emerged this week as the U.S. Capitol Police preemptively reinstalled fences around the Capitol complex and coordinated with various law enforcement partners to ensure there was a significant presence.
“What we realized after January 6th is that we had become a little negligent in some of the aggressive talks. We all had,” said Melissa Smislova, DHS Assistant Under Secretary for Intelligence Company Readiness, at Tuesday Homeland Security Enterprise Forum, adding that DHS has since reintroduced bi-weekly threat calls and committed to meetings to discuss upcoming events and working groups.
“Some of it was just a lack of discipline, I think a complacency, maybe even,” she said.
The framework for the exchange of information between federal, state and local authorities is in place, said Smislova, but “you actually had to look for it instead of having it brought to you.”
“We all saw this as a failure on our part to communicate with one another and to make absolutely sure that we all had the same information. So this signing is what you’ve seen since January 6th, ”she said.
Officials are preparing for the potential for violence – both in Washington and in other cities in the US – around the rally, which organizers say is set to begin at noon ET.
Threats from people suggesting they are coming to Washington or going elsewhere to use violence to promote their beliefs have increased, including false narratives that the 2020 elections were stolen and that people because of their participation in the Elections Arrested The January 6 riots are being treated unfairly and are just trying to do the right thing, according to a federal law enforcement source.
“We are taking a very measured approach,” added the Federal Police source, “but what we see is definitely enough to raise the concern leading to these heightened security measures.”
Specific threats were directed against the Capitol, members of Congress, Democrats, the Jewish community and liberal churches, according to two known sources and the DHS intelligence briefing obtained from CNN.
The second major concern is potential violent interactions between those coming to Washington for the rally and those who oppose it as calls for counter-demonstrators have increased, the federal police source said.
There is a real difference in the way authorities prepare for this event and the events leading up to Jan. 6, the source said, citing both planning efforts and increased information sharing.
“There are more people putting their ears to the ground right now than I’ve seen before that when a threat or information emerges it will alert someone that hopefully it won’t be left in a memo that won’t does reach people or report that people aren’t reading, “another law enforcement source said.
Up until this weekend, DHS was involved in facilitating the exchange of information both within the national capital region and with state and local officials across the country.
On Monday, the DHS rated the Justice for J6 rally as a Special Event Assessment Rating 3, which is awarded to events of national or international importance that require limited federal support.
There are five potential levels for these safety ratings, with the highest rating requiring extensive inter-agency support from the federal government.
Before January 6th, however, no DHS safety marking was issued – despite information such as:
“Out of the greatest caution, the DHS is coordinating with the US Capitol Police and its partners at all levels of government to maintain situational awareness and ensure public safety at weekend rallies,” a DHS spokesman told CNN in a statement on Wednesday.
Officials have also conceded that excessive communication and clarifying a strong law enforcement presence can have a deterrent effect, pointing out two dates earlier this year – the President’s inauguration on March 20, 2004 – as examples of where threats fail came.
Plea for a peaceful protest
The upcoming rally is being planned by Look Ahead America, a nonprofit led by former Trump campaigner Matt Braynard. The group is “dedicated to helping patriotic Americans forgotten by our government,” according to its website.
Braynard said in a recent interview with CNN that “this is a completely peaceful protest” and “we have told people that when they come we don’t want to see the news about the election, we don’t want to see the news on T-shirts and flags or signs about candidates or the like. ”
Capitol Hill, shocked and traumatized by the deadly unrest in January, has taken extra precautionary measures.
California House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi warned her Democratic counterparts in a letter that “some have a desire to continue the attack on the US Capitol with misinformation and malice”.
“The bipartisan and bicameral leadership of Congress has been briefed by the Capitol Police Board of the nature of the threat and unprecedented preparations to tackle yet another attempt to taint our national cause,” Pelosi said, referring to a briefing this congressional leadership received on Monday dated US Capitol Police Commissioner Tom Manger.
California Democratic MP Zoe Lofgren, a member of the House Electoral Committee investigating Jan. 6, received a detailed briefing last week on the rally’s safety from Manger, the Capitol architect and House sergeant, according to a known source . It took about an hour.
The briefing was “far more thorough” than what lawmakers received prior to Jan. 6, the source added.
A Capitol Police spokesman told CNN on Tuesday that the department was in contact with the rally organizer. The Capitol Police have also taken several steps to prepare in a way that they would do before Jan.
“We have spoken to the military and we have several agencies to assist us,” Capitol Police said in a statement to CNN when asked if there was an immediate request for National Guard help. “We cannot provide details because we do not want to disclose any security-related information.”