WASHINGTON — At first, some blamed anti-leftist Antifa for the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol, a theory quickly dismissed. The rioters were then compared to peaceful protesters or even tourists.
Now, aides to former President Donald Trump are calling those charged in the Capitol riots “political prisoners,” a surprising attempt to revise the narrative of that fateful day.
The brazen rhetoric ahead of Saturday’s rally at the Capitol is the latest attempt to precipitate a horrific attack that remains unexplained for the whole world to see: rioters loyal to the then-president stormed the building, battling police and trying were doing to prevent Congress from ratifying the election of Democrat Joe Biden.
“Some people are calling it January 6th truism – they are rewriting the narrative to make it look like January 6th was no big deal, and it was a very big deal, and an attack on our democracy,” said Heidi Berich Said, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, which studies extremist movements.
All told, the attempt to whitewash the January 6 attack threatens to further divide an already polarized nation that finds itself drifting away from common facts and a shared commitment to civil order toward an unstable new normal. Is.
Instead of the nation recovering eight months after the deadly attack, the country risks further isolating itself as the next election draws closer.
The estimated crowd size and the intensity of Saturday’s rally are unclear, but law enforcement is taking no chances. Security fencing was approved for areas around the Capitol on Monday, and reinforcements are being called in to support the Capitol Police, whose leadership was criticized and summarily criticized for its handling of the Capitol on January 6. But was rejected.
While officials are drawn to repeated appearances by right-wing extremist groups and other Trump loyalists robbing the Capitol, it is unclear whether those actors will participate in the new event. Extremist groups are concerned because, while members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers made up a small portion of the January 6 rioters, they have been charged with some of the more serious crimes in the attack.
Whether those groups participate or not, the rally alone can bring actors to Washington. Just after midnight Monday, Capitol police arrested a California man who had a bayonet and ax in his pickup truck outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The man Donald Craighead of Oceanside, Calif., had painted a swastika and other white supremacist symbols on his truck and told officers he was “on patrol.” Police said it was not clear whether he was planning to attend any upcoming demonstrations.
Rally organizer Matt Brainard, a former Trump campaign strategist, has been promoting the event and others like it in cities across the country to falsely prosecute “prisoners” for their involvement in the January 6 riots. are focusing on.
“I am very proud of all the brave patriots who took part in these rallies, who are at risk for the rights of many who are now jailed for the nonviolent expression of their First Amendment rights,” he said. July news release.
Brainard declined to answer additional questions by email, and the Associated Press declined to accept the terms he had for the interview.
As Trump openly contemplates another run for the White House, several Republican lawmakers who joined him in his attempt to challenge Joe Biden’s victory are staying away from Saturday’s rally, even though many are still also echo his false claims that the election was rigged – despite multiple court cases by Trump aides that have failed to substantiate those allegations.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who attended a January 6 rally near the White House where Trump encouraged the crowd to go to the Capitol, declined to comment, his spokesman said by email. Brooks is now running for Senate.
His office said another Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who voted to challenge some of the Electoral College heights, was not available for an interview.
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. was also rejecting an interview that was captured in a photo of him raising his fist in salute to the crowd as he entered the Capitol that day.
More than 600 people are facing federal charges in the riots that injured dozens of officers and sent lawmakers into hiding. Five people eventually died, including Trump supporter Ashley Babitt, who was shot and killed by police as they tried to enter a lobby from the House Chamber. Later several police officers took their own lives.
Hundreds were charged with misdemeanor access to the Capitol illegally, but hundreds of others face more serious charges, including assault, obstruction of official proceedings, or conspiracy.
The most serious cases have been brought against members of two far-right extremist groups – the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – as authorities investigated the extent to which the attacks were planned. No January 6 The defendant has been charged with sedition, although this was initially presumed by the authorities.
More than 60 people have pleaded guilty, most of them misdemeanor charges of demonstrations at the Capitol.
Only a fraction of defendants remain locked up while awaiting trial. Lawyers complained of overly harsh conditions for the January 6 defendants in a DC prison called the “Patriot Unit.”
Defenders of the alleged Capitol attackers claim they are facing a harsher trial because of their political views than others, including Black Lives Matter protesters, but a review of court cases by the AP refutes that claim.
Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the select panel that investigated the January 6 attacks, said lawbreakers should be prosecuted, “otherwise, we’d just rationalize, excuse and make it worse.” encourage.”
The capitol’s leafy grounds, a favorite spot for people to photograph in front of the iconic dome, usually see a few lawmakers or staff on Saturdays. While the Senate returns to session on Monday, the House does not resume until next week.
When a fence was first erected around the Capitol after the January attacks, it was heavily criticized by those concerned about shutting down the message it sent as a symbol of democracy. Now, it is increasingly being seen as a necessary precaution.
Associated Press writers Alana Durkin in Boston and Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Marie Claire Jalonik in Washington contributed to this report.