January 6th was a tragedy for the DC community, the United States, and the world. Five lives were lost and over one hundred police officers were injured. For fear of President Joe Biden's safety at his inauguration later in the month, secure fencing was erected.
If you lived on Capitol Hill, the only way you could get past the Capitol would be on Interstate 695 or around Union Station. The city felt like a war zone with hundreds of National Guardsmen stationed around the city. There were tanks and other military vehicles around the Capitol complex.
After a safe inauguration, some portions of the fencing and security were removed. Capitol police were preparing to remove the fencing in the spring but had to delay that process.
On April 2nd, Noah Green, a 25 year old man from Indiana, drove his blue sedan into two Capitol police officers. He killed one and injured the other. Though this event had nothing to do with January 6th, it increased tensions at the Capitol. This resulted in the fencing staying up for much longer than planned. The fencing was not fully removed until July.
Over the summer, after the fencing was removed, there was a calm atmosphere at the Capitol. People were allowed to walk on the grounds, bring their dogs to play, and have picnics. There were no threats and no fencing. There was little evidence that January 6th had ever occurred.
This relaxed feeling ended on August 19 when a North Carolina man named Floyd Ray Roseberry drove his black pick up truck to the Library of Congress. He claimed to have a bomb in his truck and had a standoff with the Capitol Police for several hours. He wanted to speak to President Joe Biden about his freedoms being taken away. As was the case with Noah Green, this attack had no direct relationship to the January 6th insurrection.
The families of both Noah Green and Floyd Ray Roseberry indicated that they were experiencing mental health issues.
The Capitol complex was put into lockdown after this event and Roseberry was arrested. This event did not result in new or additional fencing or security.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump and the over 600 people who were arrested for storming the Capitol on January 6th participated in a protest called Justice 4 J6 which occurred on September 18 outside of the Capitol and on the national mall grounds. Justice 4 J6 was started by a former Trump campaign staffer named Matt Braynard. He is the head of the organization called Look Ahead America.
Before the rally occurred, Braynard wanted to make it clear that this protest was only for justice for the prisoners. He did not want protesters to bring the undisputed presidential election or former President Donald Trump. In his mind, this is why people were arrested on January 6th. To the Washington Post, Braynrad said those arrested were “Vilified because of their political view points”, while talking about January 6th. He stated in a video on Look Ahead America’s website that safety was his number one priority. He encouraged protesters to respect the police and even hired his own private security detail.
Once Justice 4 J6 was announced and scheduled, the Department of Homeland Security shared an intelligence briefing in which they said there was the possibility of violence. “We assess that some individuals involved in or opposed to the Justice 4 J6 rally… may seek to engage in violence but lack indications of a specific or credible plot associated with the event.” This quote is from a memo sent out a day before the event occurred, September 17, 2021. This announcement got a lot of attention in the media. The media expressed concerns that the turn out would be like January 6th. The Hill released an article on September 14th, four days before the protest. “Roughly 700 people are expected to attend the Justice 4 J6 rally according to an official at the Department of Homeland Security.” Not only did the article bring up the number of people that would show up but the type of people who would show up. “DHS expects that a number of demonstrators connected to the groups that stormed the Capitol will return for Saturday’s event.” They were worried January 6th would repeat itself and cause destruction.
People had feared that the rally would turn violent like the January 6th insurrection. Hundreds of DC Metropolitan police, Capitol police officers, and National Guardsmen were called on duty and told to be ready for violence. Even backup police officers from Arlington County, Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland were sent in.
Look Ahead America predicted that 700 protesters would participate in the September 18th rally. That number may have dropped after statements from former President Trump and others with commentators who warned people away from the rally, claiming that it was a set up to arrest Trump supporters. In an interview with the Federalist, former President Trump said: “On Saturday, that’s a setup, 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.”
After much anticipation, September 18th finally arrived.
Police officers were ready with helmets, shields, bullet proof vests and weapons. They had more protection than on January 6th. There were concerns that participants in other events occurring that same day could get caught up in violence from the rally.The H Street Festival, a Washington Nationals game, the Howard University Homecoming and counter protests on the mall were all planned for that day.
The first event of Justice 4 J6 was for the protesters to meet at the west lawn of the Capitol. They carried hand made signs that expressed a demand to free arrested January 6th protestors, who they believed were political prisoners.
“Stand with J6 patriots and against tyranny,” one sign stated.
Protesters also brought up in posters the 8th amendment which states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
One specific sign held in front of the Capitol read: “8th amendment, no excessive bail! Presumed innocent.”
These protesters were not the only people and ideas in the scene. This included counter protesters and media as well.
“There is no right of insurrection,” one counter protester’s sign said.
They believed that the arrested protestors deserved to be in jail after damaging property and injuring law enforcement officers. Fortunately, on September 18, there were no major physical fights between the protesters and counter protesters. Matt Braynard stated that he wanted the protest to be peaceful and he mostly succeeded in his goal.
Only 4 people were arrested. Two for possession of firearm warrants, one for possession of a knife and lasty one with a firearm. They had weapons but none were ever put to use.
Though the organizers of the event said their expected number of protesters would be 700, only around 100 to 200 actual protesters attended.The whole crowd was estimated to be approximately 450 people. They were nearly outnumbered by the media.
By late afternoon, people started to depart and not much occurred afterwards. Police were over prepared, and the estimated number of participants was considerably lower than the number predicted.
Law Enforcement Officials and the government were prepared for the likes of January 6th, a matter in which this event did not nearly match.