DC group calls for additional safety precautions ahead of Capitol rally

The Downtown Cluster of Congregations believes local businesses can help police by limiting alcohol sales and canceling hotel reservations.

WASHINGTON – Ahead of a demonstration scheduled for September 18 to show support for those accused of the Capitol riots, a DC church association has raised concerns about the event and called on local businesses to take special precautions.

The “Justice for J6” rally is being hosted by Look Ahead America and is scheduled to take place near the West Front of the Capitol and in Union Square.

Matt Braynard, data manager for the 2016 Trump campaign, announced the rally on Steve Bannon’s podcast this summer, calling on his supporters to seek justice for those accused of the Capitol riots.

Information gathered by investigators so far suggests that 300 to 500 people will attend the event, and some members of Congress have been invited to attend, a federal law enforcement source told CBS News. It is not clear whether members will be present.

Although a decision has yet to be finalized, United States Capitol Police officers have been urged to prepare for the return of fencing to the Capitol grounds. The Metropolitan Police also recently sent a flash alert to all members of the department transmitting a full activation of the district police force on September 18.

Downtown Cluster of Congregations (DCC) executive director Terry Lynch told WUSA 9 on Friday that he is urging DC leaders to ask local businesses to participate in security measures.

“We don’t think it’s up to the MPD alone. We don’t think it’s up to the Capitol Police to secure it,” he said. “It’s kind of a situation where all the players are on the bridge.”

The DCC dates back to 1972 and is made up of over 50 local churches of different denominations.

In a letter to city administrator Kevin Donahue, Lynch called on the DC government to urge hotels and Airbnb not to take reservations the day before and on the day of the rally and to cancel reservations they have received for these dates.

He also recommended that liquor stores within a mile radius of the event close early and that nearby bars and restaurants stop serving alcohol early on these days.

The list included a call for companies to keep all videos taken the day before and the day of the rally.

“We think it would be foolish not to take seriously what could possibly happen,” Lynch told WUSA 9. “Given what happened and the lives lost (in January), we think that it is well our responsibility to do what we can to make sure we are safe this weekend.

Lynch expressed concern and called for safety measures ahead of the January 6 riot that ended in the deaths of several people and the arrest of hundreds more.

The January riot came after Asbury’s United Methodist Church was one of two black churches in the city targeted by protesters during the December 12 unrest. The oldest African-American church to remain at its original site has seen its Black Lives Matter banner destroyed and burnt by Proud Boys protesters.

Ahead of next week’s rally, Lynch was hopeful that more security measures would be taken to prevent similar violence from occurring.

“We have to take this very seriously and it means that we are all doing what we can to help MPD and help the Capitol Police,” he said. “With small, simple steps, I think we can help ensure safety and empower people to express their freedom of expression.”

Capitol Police officials plan to hold briefings for the event with members of Congress next week.

During the meetings, they will offer details of security plans and recommend whether or not to reinstall fences around the Capitol.

RELATED: MPD Fully Activates Department Ahead of Planned ‘Justice for J6’ Protest on September 18

RELATED: Proud Boys Leader Visits To Burn BLM Flag

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Susan W. Lloyd