By LUKE BARR, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — As law enforcement in Washington, D.C., braced for protests at the Capitol and around the nation’s capital Wednesday when Congress meets to ratify Joe Biden as winner of the presidential election, the leader of the alt-right group, the Proud Boys, urged members to show up in support of President Donald Trump.
Enrique Tarrio, made the comments after being arraigned Tuesday on charges of destruction of property stemming from a “Stop the Steal” protest in December and for possessing two high-powered magazine clips.
Tarrio himself, while released on his own recognizance, was barred from staying in the city except to make court appearances.
Members of the Proud Boys clashed violently with counter-protesters after a previous pro-Trump rally last month.
The new chief of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, which will be the lead agency responding to protests, has said there is no room for guns in the nation’s capital where firearms are banned.
“We have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city and that’s just – just will not be tolerated,” Chief Robert Contee said.
U.S Park Police arrested a man for allegedly carrying a concealed firearm during a pro-Trump rally Tuesday at Freedom Plaza.
Other protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court where longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone, recently pardoned, spoke to the crowd.
On Wednesday, the president is expected to attend and speak at an 11 a.m. “Save America” rally on the Ellipse near the White House and authorities anticipated protesters gathering at the Capitol and other symbolic locations around the city.
On Tuesday evening, he tweeted, “Washington is being inundated with people who don’t want to see an election victory stolen by emboldened Radical Left Democrats. Our Country has had enough, they won’t take it anymore! We hear you (and love you) from the Oval Office. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
In another tweet saying Republicans should take “notice” of the people “pouring into DC,” Trump tagged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders who oppose other Senate Republicans challenging Biden’s Electoral College win.
At the same time, in a tweet proclaiming, “Antifa is a terrorist organization, stay out of Washington” and “Law enforcement is watching you very closely,” he tagged several government agencies, including the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the FBI and Justice Department and the Department of the Interior.
According to the arrest warrant, Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys group allegedly defaced a Black Lives Matter sign attached to the AME Metropolitan Church, a historically black church in the city, and authorities said police presence will increase at churches and special attention will be given to Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House where police were preparing to close off access to the plaza if necessary.
A law enforcement official told ABC News that there are no known threats over the next few days, but a separate law enforcement source said that the police presence is “all hands on deck.”
The National Guard also will have a presence in D.C. at the request of Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy has activated about 340 unarmed D.C. National Guardsmen to assist local law enforcement. Working day and night shifts there will be about be about 115 National Guardsmen at a given time assisting D.C. police at more than 30 traffic-control checkpoints.
“Our main mission is augmenting select traffic control points and Metro stations identified by MPD,” Gen. William J. Walker, Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard said in a press release Monday.
The orders for them say that they will be unarmed and won’t have body armor or riot gear. They’re providing three Guard police officers to accompany a city police officer at 30 checkpoints in town, freeing up an equal number of police to be closer to demonstrations and respond quickly to any violence that might break out.
At the same time, Bowser has sent a letter to leaders of the Justice Department and the Pentagon discouraging them from deploying additional federal law enforcement personnel to handle potential unrest at Wednesday’s protests without “immediate” notification and consultation with the D.C. police department.
Bowser’s letter, addressed to acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, says that the MPD is fully prepared to handle the protests in coordination with partners in the Park Police, Capitol Police, Secret Service and D.C. National Guard, and urges against federal deployments of unidentifiable armed personnel which she says previously caused confusion for local law enforcement during several protests in 2020.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson tells ABC News that the agency has established a virtual operations center. Additionally, Customs and Border Protection, a DHS asset, is on stand-by to protect federal buildings.
“As a law enforcement component under the DHS Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), CBP will provide support, as requested, to the Federal Protective Service to protect Federal facilities and property if needed,” a CBP spokesperson said in a statement.
At the U.S. Capitol, members and staff were being urged to use the underground tunnel system on Wednesday when the joint session of Congress meets, according to a message sent to staff by the Senate Sergeant at Arms.
“When moving to and from the House Office Buildings and the Capitol, the Sergeant at Arms and U.S. Capitol Police continue to encourage Members and staff to use the underground access points and the Cannon and Rayburn tunnels in lieu of walking outdoors or driving to the Capitol plaza,” the notice said.
A Capitol Police spokesperson said that the agency has “comprehensive security plans in place and we continuously monitor and assess new and emerging threats, with the overall goal of keeping those within the Capitol Complex safe and secure.”
ABC News’ Quinn Owen, Luis Martinez, Benjamin Siegel, Alex Mallin and John Parkinson contributed to this report.
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