Protests planned in support of President Trump on Jan. 6 are multiplying by the week.
The events will be headlined by Trump’s most ardent supporters, including recently pardoned George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russia investigation, and longtime ally Roger Stone, whose sentence for seeking to impede a congressional probe into Russian election interference was commuted by Trump in July before being upgraded to a full pardon.
Formal rallies are planned most of the day and will draw pro-Trump demonstrators to the Washington Monument, Freedom Plaza and the Capitol. But online forums and encrypted chat messages among far-right groups indicate a number of demonstrators might be planning more than chanting and waving signs.
Threats of violence, ploys to smuggle guns into the District and calls to set up an “armed encampment” on the Mall have proliferated in online chats about the Jan. 6 day of protest. The Proud Boys, members of armed right-wing groups, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists have pledged to attend.
Trump, meanwhile, has continued to issue calls to supporters to converge on D.C.
“JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!” he tweeted Wednesday.
Women for America First — a group of conservative women behind a pro-Trump march in November and this month’s Million MAGA March, which ended in a night of chaos on D.C. streets — requested a permit from the National Park Service to hold a protest with about 5,000 attendees at Freedom Plaza.
Another protest, dubbed the “Wild Protest” in reference to Trump’s tweets earlier this month, is scheduled for the northeast quadrant of the Capitol lawn.
A smaller demonstration organized by Trump supporter James Epley, of South Carolina, will lead a few hundred people from the Mall to the Capitol, according to a permit application filed earlier this month.
A new group called the Eighty Percent Coalition — a reference to the roughly three-quarters of Republicans who have said in polls they do not trust the results of the presidential election — filed a permit request this week for a rally that organizers estimate could draw up to 10,000 people.
The application was filed by Cindy Chafian, an organizer with Women for America First who seemingly broke off from the group to form a new organization. Though she originally asked that the Eighty Percent Coalition rally be at Freedom Plaza — which is still the venue for the Women for America First event — Park Service officials said her application was amended to request space at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument.
Representatives from Women for America First and the Eighty Percent Coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week.
Incoming D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III, who will take over the department Saturday, said police are prepared to facilitate peaceful protests but that “violence will not be tolerated.”
Earlier this month, a day of largely peaceful demonstrations descended into violent chaos as night fell and small bands of Proud Boys dressed in the group’s signature black and gold garb roamed downtown looking for a fight. Several people, including passersby who said they did not know about planned protests that day, were injured.
Four people, who according to Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio are members of the group, were stabbed in a chaotic melee outside Harry’s Bar, a favorite downtown hangout of the group. Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against the man accused in the stabbing, who in a video of the incident is seen drawing a knife after he was pushed and punched and had his face mask grabbed by members of a churning crowd.
Anti-Trump and anti-fascist protesters for weeks have called on D.C. officials and businesses to do more to crack down on Trump supporters who largely flout coronavirus restrictions, such as mask mandates. A campaign to urge downtown hotels to shut their doors during next week’s events is ongoing, although largely unsuccessful.
Several hotels, including the Holiday Inn Alexandria at Carlisle, Holiday Inn Capitol and the Hyatt Place White House on K Street, said they are sold out on the nights around Jan. 6, although managers noted it is not atypical for area hotels to be full this time of year.
The Hotel Harrington — where Proud Boys and other far-right groups have gathered over the past two months, unnerving some guests and workers — announced after a Washington Post report on its growing reputation as the Proud Boys’ go-to hotel that it would close on Jan. 4, 5 and 6.
“Washington, D.C. has been our home for 106 years and we join with all of our guests, visitors, staff and neighbors in our concern and desire for everyone’s health and safety,” the statement read. “We greatly appreciate the trust our guests have placed in Hotel Harrington over the years and we wish to continue to earn that trust. While we cannot control what happens outside of the hotel, we are taking additional steps to protect the safety of our visitors, guests and employees.”
The hotel said it would offer refunds for prepaid reservations.
In the past three months, the hotel’s in-house bar, Harry’s, has been cited three times for violating social distancing and mask regulations. The violations occurred on weekends when large numbers of Proud Boys and other pro-Trump supporters, in town for demonstrations, were in the bar.
No counterdemonstrations have been announced for Jan. 6, although D.C. activists have issued repeated warnings this week about the likelihood of violence.
“Please protect yourselves,” reads a message co-signed by more than half a dozen D.C. protest groups. “We invite you to join us but please be aware that there will be danger present, so please prepare adequately beforehand and remember we have safety in numbers.”
D.C. officials have not commented on the city’s plans to address concerns of violence around next week’s rallies.
Earlier this month, city leaders expressed concerns about the continued presence of Proud Boys at D.C. demonstrations.
“These Proud Boys are avowed white nationalists and have been called to stand up against a fair and legal election,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) added that a beautiful weekend “was ruined by white supremacists who came to our city seeking violence.”
Joe Heim and Peter Hermann contributed to this report.