On Saturday, supporters of former president Donald Trump are holding a rally in Washington, D.C. in support of the Jan. 6 attackers currently detained for their role in that act of domestic terrorism.
The rally sends a clear message: If you commit acts of violence to help Trump, he and his supporters will have your back.
The rally sends a clear message: If you commit acts of violence to help Trump, he and his supporters will have your back. Despite the fact that the event may in fact be relatively small at an estimated 700 attendants, that message and what it represents makes this arguably the most dangerous pro-Trump rally yet.
Saturday’s event, named the "Justice for J6" rally, is organized by a former Trump campaign strategist, Matt Braynard, who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations by claiming he had proof of 2020 election fraud, predicated upon the false claim that those still being held in custody are political prisoners.
On Thursday, Trump released a statement that read in part, “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest,” insisting as he has before that the prosecutions are political in nature.
This is nothing new — Trump has been leading that crusade for some time, baselessly claiming that the Jan. 6 attackers still behind bars “are being treated unbelievably unfairly. ” He’s also compared their treatment by law enforcement to other groups: “You look at people in prison and nothing happens to Antifa and they burned down cities and killed people.” (The Associated Press has detailed that hundreds of people were prosecuted for crimes arising from last summer’s protests, with an average sentence of 27 months in prison.)
Whether or not the rally turns violent, the real damage lies in its bolstering of Trump’s dangerous message, and the possibility that the Jan. 6 attacks may be more than a one-off attempt by Trump and his supporters to overturn future elections using violence. A CBS poll from late July found that 55 percent of Trump voters view the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol as “defending freedom.” (That’s compared to 31 percent of all Americans who share that view.) And among Republicans, only 39 percent “strongly disapprove” of the Jan. 6 attack — down from 51 percent in January.
Those poll numbers, along with recent DHS reports that “some conspiracy theories associated with reinstating former President Trump have included calls for violence if desired outcomes are not realized," are a wake-up call we cannot afford to ignore.
The real damage lies in its bolstering of Trump’s dangerous message.
The truth is that of the over 600 people arrested to date for their role in the Jan. 6 attack, “only a handful,” per the AP, have been denied bail because of the severity of their alleged crimes and the danger they could till pose to our nation.
As a federal judge noted in May when considering a bail request from one of the Jan. 6 defendants, “Despite the 'serious and chilling nature' of the events that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,” not all charged should be held without bail.
The court explained that this was reserved for only those “who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions.” And even then, the burden is on the prosecution to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that there is “no condition or combination of conditions can be imposed that would reasonably assure the safety of the community” if the defendant was released on bail.
People currently being detained for their involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection include Dominic Pezzola, a known member of the violent far-right group the Proud Boys, who the DOJ alleges stole a riot shield from a Capitol Police officer and then used it to smash open a Capitol building window, allowing others to enter the building. Kenneth Harrelson, a member of the paramilitary group The Oath Keepers, is accused of being part of a group that hunted Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the attack and who provided weapons for the riots.
Daniel Ray Caldwell, a former U.S. Marine from Texas, faces a seven-count indictment from spraying at least 15 police officers with a chemical substance outside the Capitol which he later boasted about on video. In denying bail, the federal judge noted that Caldwell attended the rally with the intention to attack the police given that he brought the chemical spray with him and was “wearing glasses designed to prevent spray from penetrating his own eyes.” The court concluded that “clear and convincing evidence supports a finding that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community” if he was released on bail.
The DOJ alleges Thomas Sibick was part of the mob that brutally beat Capitol Police officer Michael Fanone — who you may recall testified in July before the Jan. 6 committee that he was “grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country." In denying bail, the judge noted that Sibick showed no remorse and was seen on video ripping Fanone’s badge off his vest and stealing his police radio — as the judge put it, denying Fanone a "lifeline."
Jeffrey Sabol is accused of grabbing a Metropolitan Police officer who was guarding the interior of the Capitol building, dragging the officer down stairs while “punching the back of the police officer.” Sabol was also charged with using an “instrument believed to be a police officer's baton across the police officer's lower neck.” As Sabol told the police when he was arrested, he was “fighting tyranny in the D.C. Capital."
The list goes on. But the fact remains that these people, in their desire to “Fight for Trump,” waged a violent attack on our Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election. And those being denied bail are charged with crimes that warrant that legally — not politically.
This is what a budding fascist movement looks like. It should send a shiver down the spine of all who believe in our democratic republic.