The media spent plenty of time hyping up the “Justice for J6” right-wing rally on Saturday, held at the Capitol to protest the treatment of those arrested for their involvement in the Jan. 6 incursion. In the end, both press and police presence at the event ended up outnumbering rally attendees.
There were only two arrests at the protest, according to Fox News: One man was arrested for carrying a knife, another man was arested after a report he was carrying a handgun. Two more were arrested after being pulled over near Washington before the protest, on one a firearms charge, the other on a probation violation charge, according to Fox.
Otherwise, the event resembled nothing so much as the turtle races at your local fairgrounds — provided that the local police were unusually interested in making sure mask mandates were followed and came out with the riot patrol.
How many attendees were there? Mediaite estimated there to be “dozens,” although later noted an MSNBC estimate which put the number at 200. Not a bad turnout for a county fair turtle race, but barely a smattering by the standards of a D.C. protest.
Capitol Police said there were 400 to 450 at the protest area, but that would include the media as well as undercover law enforcement posing as demonstrators.
Approximately 400 to 450 people were inside the protest area today (excluding law enforcement).
— U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) September 18, 2021
And media representatives made up a significant share of the turnout.
Good morning from Capitol Hill.
The #JusticeForJ6 rally is scheduled to begin in 45 minutes at 12pm ET.
So far, maybe a couple dozen rally attendees are here — significantly outnumbered by police and media. pic.twitter.com/pPvr18ZWos
— Taylor Popielarz (@TaylorPopielarz) September 18, 2021
Quite frankly, our national media ought to have been amazed this rally rose to the level of the turtle races. (A big deal in my hometown, it must be noted, until six-time champion Shelly the Turtle’s doping regimen was exposed.) As The Washington Post noted in a Saturday article, organizer Matt Braynard’s last rally to support those arrested drew “about 100 people.”
The Post would later call Saturday’s rally, “The most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation’s capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.”
It was anticipated, all right — although the most enduring images from Saturday will be the disproportionality of the anticipation. Here’s the Capitol Police in full riot gear.
US Capitol Police in full riot gear pic.twitter.com/vftDmmYVEc
— Lisa Bennatan (@LisaBennatan) September 18, 2021
As our editor in chief at The Western Journal, George Upper, noted, perhaps there were other places these folks could have been of service:
Maybe we could deploy these folks to the border? They’re clearly not needed in D.C. today. https://t.co/WI93VRzSeg
— The Upper Cut (@georgeupper) September 18, 2021
Here’s another dispiriting thought to consider, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times’ Del Quentin Weber:
At the J6 rally on the Mall, protesters are outnumbered by reporters. Massive police presence: helicopter, police dogs, dump trucks lining 3rd St. The cost per protester would be interesting to work out. pic.twitter.com/YjXXTW4Cdi
— Del Quentin Wilber (@DelWilber) September 18, 2021
If you’re using “interesting” here in the sense of “profoundly depressing,” then yes, it would be interesting.
I haven’t seen the Capitol area this locked down since the immediate aftermath of Jan 6. Streets closed. Fence up. Trucks parked as barricades and already two friendly @CapitolPolice officers have asked us to stay back from fence/out of street after spotting us on security cams pic.twitter.com/uAfn4stcIX
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) September 18, 2021
And yes, speaking of the border again, it’s nice to know we have a more secure fence at the Capitol than we do down there, despite the fact neither the House nor the Senate was in session and the Post noted that the halls of the Capitol “were all but deserted” on Saturday:
But at least there’s a fence around the U.S. Capitol. https://t.co/mlOaEHEDsZ
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) September 16, 2021
In addition, there were dump trucks surrounding the Capitol and the National Guard — as well as local police — were on standby.
Why? Fox News said “U.S. Capitol Police said they received intelligence information leading up to the weekend that was similar to what was missed in January, when law enforcement was only expecting a free speech protest and Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol.”
That just makes them 0-for-2 on anticipating what would happen at Capitol rallies.
It’s not as if this outcome couldn’t have been predicted. First, according to Axios, the permit for the rally only allowed for 700 people. Then there was Braynard’s level of influence — or rather, lack thereof. Yes, he may have a high follower count on Twitter — over 143,000 — but his previous rallies had drawn minimal interest and there was a widespread belief, including former President Donald Trump, that the event was a “setup” — a term Trump used in an interview with The Federalist about the event.
“On Saturday, that’s a setup,” Trump said. “If people don’t show up they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s a lack of spirit.’ And if people do show up they’ll be harassed.”
It isn’t just the cost of the police presence or the fact the media’s attention was wasted on such a small event. In both cases, if those entities missed the target wildly, they could be excused for saying they had prevented another Capitol incursion by a show of force or shining a bright spotlight on the event.
Instead, it’s the fact that, even if the rally fizzled, Braynard has accomplished his goal.
“Already this rally is a success,” he told MSNBC Friday, according to the Post. Attendance wasn’t an issue to him because “there’s going to be so much media.”
“It’s not really a numbers game, it’s a message game,” he added.
The message ended up being that Braynard is a lot more powerful than he actually is. Just look at the police presence he’s able to inspire, after all.
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