A group seeking the release of hundreds of people accused of committing crimes in Washington on Jan. 6 is planning to hold a rally at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 18.
The rally is being organized by Look Ahead America, a nonprofit group that says it advocates for disaffected Americans who are ignored by both political parties and the government.
More than 600 people have been charged with a range of crimes for alleged actions in early January at the U.S. Capitol, when protesters and rioters breached the building, interrupting a joint session of Congress.
Many of those charged remain in jail pending trial, even some who aren’t accused of carrying out acts of violence.
“We’re demanding justice for the Jan. 6 political prisoners. We’re demanding justice for the people who had their lives destroyed by the FBI, rounding them up like terrorists, when they committed no crimes of violence or simply [were] aggressively exercising their First Amendment rights,” Matt Braynard, founder and executive director of Look Ahead America, told The Epoch Times.
“We’re protesting the denial of bail, the denial of medical care, the denial of access to attorneys to nonviolent protesters who have still been held by the federal government now going on nine months.”
The “Justice for J6” rally is also aimed at “pushing back against the narrative that there ever was an insurrection,” said Braynard, who once worked for former President Donald Trump’s campaign and has said he was inspired by Trump to create the nonprofit.
Some of the people in prison awaiting trial on charges linked to Jan. 6 have said they went to the Capitol at Trump’s behest, with a subset blaming him for what they did.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives while still in office for allegedly inciting an insurrection; he was acquitted by the Republican-held Senate. Republicans repeatedly pointed out that Trump repeatedly urged people on Jan. 6 to remain peaceful when they went to the U.S. Capitol.
Braynard wrote to federal law enforcement officials in January to urge them to drop all charges against nonviolent protesters from Jan. 6. In that letter, he emphasized that he supports the prosecution of people who became violent or destroyed property.
Conservative legal activists and Republicans in Congress have been among those decrying the treatment of some charged in the Jan. 6 breach, arguing that it’s been much harsher than what was meted out to people charged in the riots of 2020.
Over the summer, a group of Republicans tried entering the jail where many of the prisoners are being held, but were denied access. Multiple defendants have said they were beaten by guards, while others have alleged different forms of abuse. The D.C. Department of Corrections didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the claims.
Organizers of the upcoming rally put an estimated attendance of 700 on permit applications, although they expect that number could grow to a few thousand.
No prominent attendees have yet been announced.
U.S. Capitol Police erected fencing around the U.S. Capitol after Jan. 6 and kept it up for months, finally removing it in July. The agency said the removal was based on the current threat environment and enhancements to its response capabilities.
Reports citing anonymous sources stated that due to security concerns over the Sept. 18 rally, the fencing could be put back up. Braynard said officials hadn’t discussed that possibility with him.
The U.S. Capitol Police declined to respond directly to the reports, though the agency stated that it’s aware of the planned protest.
“We are closely monitoring September 18 and we are planning accordingly,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told The Epoch Times in an email. “After January 6, we made Department-wide changes to the way we gather and share intelligence internally and externally. I am confident the work we are doing now will make sure our officers have what they need to keep everyone safe.”
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said the agency will be “fully prepared” for the events planned for later this month.
“As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring and assessing the activities and planning accordingly with our federal law enforcement partners. MPD will have an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety,” she said.
Some reports stated that members of the Proud Boys and other groups that had members charged in connection to Jan. 6 are expected to attend. But the Proud Boys urged members not to show up.
“We aren’t going and you shouldn’t either,” the group stated in a recent post on Telegram.