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D.C. police, FBI on alert ahead of QAnon’s 'true Inauguration Day'

An internal memo sent by the House's acting sergeant-at-arms said there is no indication of planned protests.
Image: A U.S. flag with a symbol from the group QAnon outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A U.S. flag with a QAnon symbol outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

Law enforcement agencies around Washington, D.C., are adding extra security out of concern about a coming date — March 4, which is Thursday — that has swirled online among QAnon supporters.

An internal memo sent by the Timothy P. Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-Arms, which was obtained by NBC News, said his office "is working closely with the U.S. Capitol Police to monitor information related to March 4th and potential protests and demonstration activity surrounding what some have described as the 'true Inauguration Day.'"

Blodgett wrote that plans are in place for “additional personnel” to "support the safety and security of Members and staff."

The memo said Capitol Police have "no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence."

An FBI official said last week that the bureau was aware of the discussion among far-right groups that Thursday could be the next rallying point.

The government is still working to address the events of Jan. 6, when a rally held by President Donald Trump morphed into a riot at the Capitol.

The QAnon movement has been broadly fixated on predicting dates when Trump would initiate a purge of Democrats, journalists and celebrities who it believes are part of a secretive cabal of child abusers. 

President Joe Biden's inauguration and the Capitol riot did cause some fracturing on the far right; some extremists turned on QAnon supporters, and even other QAnon followers started to question the movement. 

Many others remain QAnon adherents, having adopted Thursday as the next day they believe Democrats will be arrested en masse or the day that Trump will be re-inaugurated as president. The "sovereign citizen" movement, a 50-year-old conspiracy movement composed largely of radical tax protesters, believes there has not been a legitimate president since Ulysses S. Grant, who was inaugurated March 4, 1869.

Desperate for an explanation that would allow Trump to remain president, some QAnon conspiracy theorist forums have adopted the mythology that he would become the 19th president on Thursday, invalidating almost two centuries of legitimate American government.

Many QAnon followers took part in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including Douglas Jensen, who led the first wave of the mob toward Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman. Jake Angeli, also known as the QAnon Shaman, was charged with knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds after he stood at the dais on the Senate floor during the riot.

While users in online QAnon groups are looking forward to Thursday, no specific protests or events are being planned, according to an NBC analysis of the largest remaining forums. Compared to the rally-turned-riot at the Capitol, an event promoted by Trump and several organizations supporting him, Thursday is expected to be quiet. Prominent conspiracy theory influencers have also advised their followers to avoid any events Thursday, saying they are "false flag" operations organized to trap QAnon supporters. 

Extremism experts warn against dismissing a continuing threat by extremists driven by white supremacists and dejected, violent conspiracy theorists.

"There is little promotion of action around March 4th," said Daniel J. Jones, who leads Advance Democracy, a disinformation research organization.

"Of course, there may be detailed planning occurring on closed channels that we're not seeing.  Conspiracy theories around the election persist, and, remarkably, are still promoted by political leaders on the right.  There should be no doubt now that this sort of rhetoric has consequences — so we continue to be concerned about the potential for violence."