WASHINGTON — United States Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday that there has been “chatter” about possible violence associated with the rally planned by far-right protesters outside the Capitol building Saturday.
Manger said during a briefing with reporters that Capitol Police leadership has been working over the last eight months to ensure there’s no repeat of the riot that occurred on Jan. 6 when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.
“Our mission tomorrow, as it is our mission every day, and that is to protect everyone's rights to free speech, and to allow them to lawfully demonstrate, and again, we are planning for a safe event tomorrow,” Manger said.
He warned, however, “There have been some threats of violence associated with this, the events for tomorrow, and we have a strong plan in place to ensure that it remains peaceful and that if violence does occur, that we can stop it as quickly as possible.”
Manger, who was chosen to lead the agency in late July, said his biggest concern is the possibility of clashes between the demonstrators attending the rally, organized to support people arrested during the Jan. 6 attack, and counter-protesters.
Asked about the credibility of the intelligence collected about the rally, Manger said, “We would be foolish not to take seriously the intelligence that we have at our disposal. How credible it is, how likely it is, people can make those judgments, but the fact of the matter is that we are hearing, we are hearing some chatter.”
Manger added that it’s “tough to say whether [the intelligence is] credible or not” and police don’t know with any certainty how serious the threats are, but he said, “We’re not taking any chances.”
The permit for the rally was for 700 people, said Manger, who said they don’t know how many people to expect in attendance.
Yogananda Pittman, the Capitol Police’s assistant chief of police for protective and intelligence operations, said Friday that her agency has made “substantial changes” since January so that instead of being consumers of intelligence, they have expanded their intelligence operations so that they share information with law enforcement partners “at every level.”
“This change involves improved internal communications as well as including intelligence briefings to our rank and file officers,” she said.
Metropolitan D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said his department has increased staffing for Saturday’s events, which also includes an annual festival on H Street, not far from the Capitol. Contee said that D.C.’s gun laws will be enforced and if officers observe anyone in possession of a firearm, “We will take police action.”
Asked about the possibility of the D.C. National Guard getting involved, as it did toward the end of the riot on Jan. 6, Manger said that its members would be available for assistance if the event goes longer than expected, but have not been asked to be armed.
Lawmakers have known about Saturday’s rally for weeks, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hosting a security briefing on Monday for other congressional leaders about the event. Members of Congress are not expected to attend the rally or be in the vicinity of the Capitol as most lawmakers are back home in their districts.
Capitol Police had fencing quickly reinstalled this week around the perimeter of the Capitol, which had been erected in the wake of Jan. 6 and removed in July, to ensure that protesters do not get close to the building.