Congressional leaders and top security officials say the U.S. Capitol will be well-prepared for a far-right rally expected for the area on Saturday, including plans to reinstall perimeter fencing that was up for months after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
This weekend’s rally will present law enforcement officials with the first large-scale security test to the Capitol since the attack on the complex by a pro-Trump mob.
On Saturday, right-wing demonstrators plan to protest the ongoing criminal cases tied to individuals charged after the deadly riot. The weekend rally has drawn the attention of far-right extremist groups, The Associated Press has reported.
Monday’s vote of confidence in Capitol security plans came following a security briefing for the top Democratic and Republican leaders in each chamber by Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger and House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker. Both Manger and Walker were installed in their posts after their predecessors were forced to resign following the Jan. 6 attack.
“They seem very, very well-prepared, much better prepared than before Jan. 6,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “And I think they are ready for whatever might happen.”
Schumer made the remarks following the joint meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Manger said he shared with the leaders the intelligence the agency is aware of, along with its operational plan for that day.
He also told reporters he expects the fencing to return later this week.
“The fence will go up a day or two before [the rally] and, if everything goes well … it will come down soon after,” he said.
The perimeter fencing was previously installed in the hours following the Jan. 6 insurrection and remained in place until July. It drew opposition from many Republicans and some Democrats, who said the fencing had turned the seat of American democracy into a fortress.
The Capitol Police Board, a small panel that includes top security officials in each congressional chamber, approved the plan Monday to put up the fencing around the complex temporarily. And last week the board issued an emergency declaration that will go into effect at the time of the demonstration to allow Capitol Police to deputize outside law enforcement officials as special officers for the department.
For its part, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, or MPD, has also said it’s ready to defend the Capitol.
“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,” Chief Robert Contee said recently.
Congress is not slated to be in session on Saturday, but lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and surrounding neighbors are bracing for the event.
And on Monday, Capitol Police arrested a man with weapons near Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.
Pelosi said the security briefing was a reminder of improvements installed since the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“It seems much better,” Pelosi told Capitol Hill reporters. “I’m sure we’ll have ongoing communications.”
In a statement, Capitol Police said the agency is aware of online discussions regarding the Saturday event. Manger said that while demonstrators have a right to protest, he urged those looking for trouble to stay away.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Manger said. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
Capitol Police noted that since Jan. 6, the agency has improved training, installed a new emergency response plan, added additional equipment and launched a departmentwide operation planning process. It has also held planning meetings for the Saturday event for the last month.