WASHINGTON — Several hundred supporters of Donald Trump demonstrated in Washington on Saturday amid a heavy police presence, protesting against the prosecutions of people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The event near the Capitol was much different than the rally-turned-riot in January, which was fueled by Trump’s false claims that his defeat by President Joe Biden in last year’s election was based on massive vote fraud.
Capitol Police patrolled several rows of crowd-control fencing. The National Guard was on standby in case the protest approached anything like the hand-to-hand combat on Jan. 6, when a much larger crowd overwhelmed police and stormed the seat of the U.S. government during a session of Congress.
Capitol Police said they arrested four people, including a man with a handgun in the crowd and another carrying a knife. Near the end of the rally, officers separated protesters and opponents a few blocks from the Capitol without making further arrests.
Authorities were intent on taking no chances, reinstalling fencing around the Capitol ahead of the rally, though most U.S. lawmakers aren’t in Washington this weekend. Federal prosecutors have charged more than 600 people with participating in the riot and the Capitol invasion.
Capitol Police reported 400 to 450 people in the protest area, including media workers and others. An official familiar with security estimates put the number of demonstrators at 300. Several waved flags adorned with militia symbols and slogans.
Speakers at the rally said they condemn violence and asked protesters to remain peaceful. Organizers said they were there in support of people charged with non-violent crimes after Jan. 6, not those guilty of violence. People in the crowd yelled “Let them go!”
The speakers included Republicans Mike Collins, who is running for a GOP-held House seat opening up in Georgia, and Joe Kent, who’s challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington — one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in the riot.
Sitting members of Congress declined invitations to appear on stage, although some House Republicans have expressed solidarity with people who were indicted for taking part on Jan. 6.