Worries of Online 'Chatter' Ahead of Jan. 6 Rally Prompts Reinstallation of Capitol Fence

Fears are mounting ahead of a planned rally Saturday in defense of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, prompting Congressional security officials to reinstall a temporary fence.

Capitol Police said they are monitoring the situation and "aware of concerning online chatter" regarding the demonstration. It's still unclear how many people are planning to attend or if officials should expect domestic extremist groups like the Proud Boys.

Security officials say they hope to prepare better and avoid the mistakes of January 6. At the riots, Trump supporters converged on the Capitol, causing violence and destruction as they broke past security gates and officers.

Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said in a statement that his force "will enforce the law and not tolerate violence."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

January 6 Fence Reinstalled
The Capitol Police are preparing to protect the building amid "online chatter" about a demonstration on September 18. Above, a video surveillance apparatus is seen in front of the Capitol in Washington on September 10, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

The announcement came hours after Manger and other security officials briefed congressional leaders on the preparations and the plans for a temporary fence, which were first reported Thursday by the Associated Press. Leaving the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he felt law enforcement is "ready for whatever might happen" on Saturday.

Police are preparing for potential violent clashes at Saturday's rally and planning for the possibility that protesters may arrive with weapons, according to two people familiar with the preparations. Officers are monitoring hotel bookings, flights, car rental reservations and buses being chartered to bring groups into Washington.

"I believe that they are well prepared, thorough, professional, and I think they are better prepared than people were before January 6," Schumer said.

The Capitol Police Board, a three-person panel of congressional security officials, approved the plan Monday to temporarily install the fence around the inner perimeter of the Capitol complex. A similar fence was erected just after January 6 and taken down in July. The board has also issued an emergency declaration that will allow the department to deputize outside law enforcement officers if necessary.

"We want to reassure everyone these are temporary measures to ensure everyone's safety," Manger said in the statement.

Police have been tracking intelligence indicating far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend next week's rally, which is designed to demand "justice" for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January's insurrection. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, however, has said he doesn't expect his membership to attend.

Police are monitoring online chatter about the death of Ashli Babbitt, in particular, as they prepare for the rally. Babbitt was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer during the January 6 attack as she attempted to break into an area immediately adjacent to the House chamber while lawmakers were still trapped inside. Some of Trump's supporters—and Trump himself—have painted her as a martyr, while both the Justice Department and the Capitol Police have cleared the officer who shot her.

There has been increased chatter about "justice" for Babbitt's death and those who may be attending the rally for that purpose may be more likely to commit violence, according to people familiar with the preparations. Police are also aware of some posts that threaten religious institutions, including Jewish centers.

Dozens of officers from the Capitol Police and Washington's Metropolitan Police Department were brutally beaten as the hundreds of insurrectionists—including members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—broke into the Capitol on January 6. Investigations into what went wrong found that there was a lack of preparation, lack of command and lack of good intelligence predicting what was going to happen.

Manger, a former police officer in suburban Washington, took over as Capitol chief in July.

Heightened Security At Capitol
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said that temporary fencing will go up around the building before the "Justice for J6" rally on September 18. Above, a Capitol Police officer uses binoculars at his post on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on September 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images