The lackluster attendance may be connected to conspiracy theories that the event was a “false flag” or “honeypot” for federal agents to entrap and arrest attendees
Reports from the start of the “Justice for J6” rally Saturday show an event much smaller than the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Video from on-scene reporters appears to show more members of the media in attendance than Trump-supporting protesters. Although Capitol Police expected as many as 1,000 attendees, and organizers obtained permits for a group of 700, the final turnout looks like it will be much lower, according to reports on the ground.
Crowd of over a hundred out for the Justice for J6 rally as speeches begin, with even more press out covering here in Union Square pic.twitter.com/8YpSSNMcEp— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) September 18, 2021
Capitol police expected up to 1,000 people to attend the “Justice for J6” rally.— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 18, 2021
But @jeffpeguescbs reports that far less showed up, and that there are more media and police present than rally attendees https://t.co/dhLq5MOn9E pic.twitter.com/sW31VFeUiT
The rally is organized by a nonprofit, “Look Ahead America,” that is led by a former Trump campaign aid Matt Braynard. The group’s mission is “standing up for patriotic Americans who have been forgotten by our government,” according to its website, which means “training citizens to lobby their state and local governments for America First causes” in addition to “ensuring voter integrity.” Because of the event’s connection to January 6th, the FBI warned that attendees “may seek to engage in violence” but said there were no indications of a “specific or credible plot associated with the event.”
The lack of attendance could be connected with conspiracy theories about the rally pushed by Trump and other right-wingers. Users on extremist forums on platforms like TheDonald and 4chan, NBC News reported, were warning potential attendees that they believed the event was a “false flag” or “honeypot” where federal agents will entrap Trump supporters into committing violence.
In an interview with The Federalist on Thursday, the former president echoed conspiracy theories that the event was a “setup.” “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.”
But immediately afterward, the former president also issued a statement saying: “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!”
It’s probable that Trump was covering his ass here, setting himself up for credit had turnout been huge while also being able to distance himself from the event in case it fails. After all, few things are more Trumpian than taking credit for others’ success and refusing accountability for his own failures.
According to Capitol Police, approximately 400 to 450 people, including the media, were inside the protest area during today’s event.