WASHINGTON — At first, some blamed the deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol on anti-leftist Antifa, 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 a rally on Saturday at the Capitol is the latest attempt to shrug off that horrific attack and leave it unclear what the whole world saw: rioters loyal to the then-president stormed the building, police battling And Democrats were trying to prevent Congress from ratifying Joe Biden’s election.
“Some people are calling it January 6th truism – they are rewriting the narrative so that it looks like January 6th was no big deal, and it was a very big deal, and an attack on our democracy,” Heidi Berich, 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 a polarized nation that finds itself drifting from the ordinary facts and a shared commitment to civil order toward an unstable new normal.
Instead of a nation recovering eight months after the deadly attack, it risks further isolating itself as the next election approaches.
The estimated crowd size and the intensity of Saturday’s rally are unclear, but law enforcement is taking no chances. There have been requests for security fencing around the Capitol and reinforcements are being called in to support the Capitol Police, whose leadership was criticized and summarily rejected for handling on January 6. Congress leaders were being briefed about the preparations on Monday morning.
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 on Monday, Capitol police arrested a California man with a bayonet and ax in his 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 in cities across the country, focusing on how he mistaken “prisoners” for involvement in the January 6 riots. way to prosecute.
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 his effort 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.
Representative 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 that another Republican, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who voted to challenge some of the Electoral College heights, was not available for an interview.
Also declining an interview was Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo, who was captured in a photo of him raising his fist in salute to the crowd as he entered the Capitol that day.
Yet, even in his absence, some Republicans are telegraphing their views. Asked if he would attend, Hawley’s office issued a commentary on behalf of the senator.
“Joe Biden should resign,” Hawley said in a statement.
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 are facing 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 the Oath Keepers – as authorities look into the extent to which the attack was planned. January 6 The defendant has not been charged with treason, 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.
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 needed to be prosecuted, “otherwise, we would just rationalize, excuse and encourage more.” do the same.”
Schiff lamented that the country had a chance to move on from the January 6 attacks, but instead chose a different path.
“There was really an opportunity to reject everything that went on until January 6th, and instead, the Republican leadership continues to embrace it,” he said. “So it’s discouraging. That means it’s going to take a lot longer to recover than it should.”
The Capitol Ground, a park-like favorite spot where people pose for photographs in front of the iconic dome, usually sees some parliamentarians or staff on Saturdays. While the Senate returns to session on Monday, the House does not resume until after the Monday after the rally.