The organizer of the right-wing rally coming up Saturday in Washington, DC, downplayed concerns of potential violence, telling CNN on Wednesday that it will feature “a largely peaceful crowd.”
The comments from Matt Braynard come as law enforcement officials in DC are bracing for potential clashes and unrest during the rally, according to an internal US Capitol Police memo reviewed by CNN. The event, called the “Justice for J6” rally, aims to support insurrectionists charged in the US Capitol riot on January 6, which turned deadly after the Capitol Police temporarily lost control of the building during the pro-Trump siege.
The rally is being planned by Look Ahead America, a nonprofit led by Braynard, a former Trump campaign staffer.
“We’ve got a largely peaceful crowd. We’ve had two events in Washington, DC, so far – at the Department of Justice and at the prison – and there have been no incidents so far,” Braynard told CNN in an interview.
“No one is going to be bringing a weapon who’s going to be part of our crowd, I can assure the police that,” he added.
Despite Braynard’s comments, law enforcement officials are preparing for the worst. US Capitol Police have requested DC National Guard assistance, and CNN has learned that DC police will be fully activated for additional coverage Saturday.
The Capitol Police intelligence report on the event notes that online chatter in support of the rally started increasing after the officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt went public with his identity in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.
There’s been a noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric around the event and heated discussions centered on Babbitt’s shooting on social media and discussion boards, according to the memo. The document warns that many individuals may also see Saturday as a “Justice for Ashli Babbitt” rally, which could be cause for concern, and that it’s not unreasonable to plan for violent altercations.
There have been additional discussions of violence associated with the event, with one online chat suggesting violence against Jewish centers and liberal churches while law enforcement is distracted that day.
Pressed by CNN on whether he’s discouraging extremists from coming to the rally, Braynard said: “Our message is that when people come that they don’t bring any kind of labels and that they come strictly to advocate for justice for the January 6 political prisoners,” referring to people who were arrested in connection with the riot.
Around 500 people have indicated they plan to attend, though the memo notes that past recent events organized by Look Ahead America had significantly lower attendance than expected and were peaceful.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.