News & Politics

Conservative Activists Plan a Capitol Rally to Support Accused January 6 Rioters

An organizer explains why they're holding it at the scene of the attacks.

Outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photograph by Evy Mages

A rally in support of people accused of taking part in the riot at the US Capitol in January is scheduled for September 18 on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Called “#JusticeforJ6,” the gathering is the work of a group called Look Ahead America that views the majority of people who’ve been charged with taking part in the deadly event as nonviolent protesters who are being persecuted for their political beliefs.

Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign official, leads Look Ahead America, which he says has a dozen employees and around 2,500 volunteers across the country. Reached by phone, he says the goals of the event are outlined in a letter he sent to the Justice Department on January 29, which claims that most of the people who entered the Capitol illegally “were political neophytes who simply viewed this as an extension of the peaceful protest.”

Look Ahead America, Braynard says, organized rallies last month at the Department of Justice and at the DC Jail, both of which featured appearances by far-right lawmakers including Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, and Louie Gohmert. There are more than 500 people accused of crimes on January 6, and a few dozen are being held in DC (this past June, NBC 4 estimated there were 39 people held in DC), so I asked Braynard: Why hold the rally here? “The best way to highlight all these injustices and the phony insurrection narratives that they’re premised on is right where it started,” he says, noting that Washingtonian didn’t call him when he sent his letter to the government, or in advance of the group’s previous two events in DC. 

In a video on his group’s website, Braynard encourages attendees to cooperate with police and asks them not to wear clothing associated with a candidate or cause. “What we’re looking for is pure patriotism,” he says in the clip. He tells Washingtonian the point is “to make clear to all the knuckleheads in the media accusing me of fomenting a second insurrection” that his group is peaceful and 100 percent focused on those arrested on January 6.

Braynard expects several thousand attendees. He estimates his group’s first event drew about 25 people and its second drew about 150. The group has a permit, he says: “We work very nicely with the Capitol Police.” Washingtonian checked the permit thing with the Capitol Police. A spokesperson replied by email, saying “At this time, we are not disclosing permit/security details. We are aware of the proposed rally and will let you know if we decide to say more.”

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.