The controversial barbed-wire fence erected around the US Capitol in the wake of the riots is making a comeback ahead of a weekend rally to protest the treatment of hundreds imprisoned over the post-election protest.
Capitol Police briefed Congress on the return of the fence on Monday, confirming it was indeed coming back and promising the legislators would be spared the chaos of eight months previous.
“The fence will go up a day or two before, and if everything goes well it will come down very soon after,” Capitol police chief Thomas Manger told reporters on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was confident that law enforcement was “far more prepared now than we were before January 6,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi concurred, citing “much better preparation and knowledge about what to expect” and “much better communication.”
The police briefing followed just hours after a California resident was arrested in a truck outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters, claiming to be “on patrol” while allegedly in possession of a bayonet and a machete. The truck, emblazoned with white supremacist symbols and lacking a proper license plate, was not exactly keeping a low profile, and officers pulled it over shortly after midnight, arresting driver Donald Craighead for possession of prohibited weapons.
Despite abundant social media chatter regarding the January 6 protest in the days and weeks preceding the event, many of the participants reported Capitol Police were almost entirely absent from the demonstration route on that day, and film footage confirms that even some of those who were present made little effort to stop the participants from entering the building.
Thousands of Trump supporters are expected to rally on Saturday to protest the treatment of the 600-plus individuals charged with crimes related to the riot, some of whom remain locked up without bail. Organizer Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign strategist, hailed the “brave patriots” who risked their freedom to participate in previous rallies on the protesters’ behalf, insisting those in jail were being held “for a non-violent expression of their First Amendment rights” in a July press release.
While the vast majority of the demonstrators were unarmed and no lawmakers were injured in the melee, the events of January 6 have nevertheless been recast by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans as an “armed insurrection,” an attack on “Our Democracy” equal in severity to September 11, Pearl Harbor, or even – according to President Joe Biden – the Civil War. However, of those who died on that day, all four were among the supposed attackers: Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt was shot by a Capitol Police officer, while the others died of medical emergencies or were trampled by the crowd. A handful of DC Police officers involved in the incident later committed suicide, and Officer Brian Sicknick died in the days following the riot after suffering two strokes.
Some 60 rioters have already pleaded guilty, mostly to minor charges related to demonstrating in the Capitol illegally. Those who remain locked up have insisted they are being subjected to extra-harsh treatment, likening themselves to political prisoners. Some members of right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the events of January 6 despite not personally being present.
The fence was initially constructed around the Capitol in the aftermath of the riot, where it remained for months despite objections from neighbors and others who felt it sent an anti-democratic message. While former President Donald Trump, by this time already out of office, was impeached a second time for supposedly inciting the riot with a speech he gave before the group marched on Congress, a US Senate report released in June stopped short of assigning blame to him, instead pointing the finger at Capitol Police, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security for ignoring the extensive planning going on in public groups on social media.