Demonstrators who met in Washington on Saturday to decry the jailing of compatriots in the attack on the Capitol received a far different reception than the rioters did in January. The building was empty this time. The crowd could see the Capitol but was unable to get near it this time; the grounds were surrounded by fencing and heavy dump trucks. There were hundreds of police officers, who easily outnumbered the protesters, Reuters reports, and counterprotesters also were in town. There also may have been more journalists watching than "Justice for J6" rally participants, per the Hill.
The crowd didn't top 200, well short of the 700 attendees organizers had predicted, but allied leaders had said that the event was a trap and that protesters would be arrested. The Proud Boys had told its members not to go, per the Washington Post. Other rumors warned that opposition activists would come dressed as supporters of former President Trump and disrupt the event. The rally included speakers who repeatedly told the crowd that the people arrested, jailed and charged in the January riot are "political prisoners." Matt Braynard, the main organizer, said, "This is about justice and disparate treatment." The protesters sporadically chanted: "Let them go, let them go."
It was over by midafternoon. Police reported two arrests, both involving weapons violations, per the Post. There were a few confrontations, mostly shouting matches between protesters and counterprotesters, that police broke up. One demonstrator, Eugene Sibick, said his son is jailed in DC, facing charges in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Investigators say Thomas Sibick tore DC police officer Michael Fanone's badge off him and stole his police radio, then buried the badge in his backyard. His father said that Sibick complains about the jail food and that his jailing is "a disgrace to this country." He added: "There were things that happened last summer in Seattle and Portland that were more egregious than what happened here, and those people were let out." (Read more protests stories.)