Up to 700 expected to attend pro-January 6 rally Saturday
Up to 700 people are expected to attend Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., in support of those who rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 — a significantly smaller number than the "tens of thousands" who came that day to protest the 2020 presidential election outcome.
Melissa Smislova, deputy undersecretary for intelligence enterprise readiness, said Tuesday, "We have learned a lot since January 6." The senior intelligence official, who was appearing at the Homeland Security Enterprise Forum, noted the DHS is "tracking hotel reservations across the United States" to gauge turnout at more than a dozen rallies orchestrated by "Look Ahead America," the organization behind "Justice for J6" led by a former 2016 Trump campaign staffer.
Smislova told reporters that approximately 500 people had RSVPed for the event.
Nonetheless, law enforcement and homeland security officials anticipate demonstrators with other grievances may also show up on Saturday, co-opting the event to promote their own issues.
"Anything that is controversial. It can be vaccines, it can be the election. All of the extremist groups are trying to be divisive. We also may have foreign aligned groups, foreigners that are going to try to amplify some of these narratives," Smislova told reporters.
The U.S. Capitol Police are erecting a temporary fence around the Capitol in anticipation of Saturday's rally. The Capitol Police Board has already issued an emergency declaration that will go into effect on the day of the demonstration, allowing the department to deputize outside law enforcement officers as U.S. Capitol Police special officers.
An inner perimeter that was built around the Capitol after the January 6 attack was taken down in July.
"We are here to protect everyone's First Amendment right to peacefully protest," said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger in a statement Monday. "I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence."
The Capitol Police held planning meetings for the demonstration throughout August, including with members of Congress.
As CBS News has previously reported, far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are planning to attend the rally, according to sources familiar with the intelligence.
Several Republican lawmakers spoke at the January 6 rally in support of former President Trump, and some have been invited to attend the rally this weekend in Washington. So far, Representatives Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene have said they do not plan to attend, but several others have not yet disclosed their plans.
Zak Hudak contributed to this report.