A rally to support Capitol riot defendants held in front of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday proved a dud, with attendance falling far short of the 700 expected – though two House candidates who showed up to speak said they felt the event was a success.
The Capitol Police estimated between 400 and 450 people were inside the police perimeter at the protest, though a good portion of the crowd was composed of journalists and cameramen.
Matthew Braynard, who organized the rally and claims those arrested in connection to the January 6 attack on the Capitol are “political prisoners,” urged attendees to treat the police and media with respect, which drew a mix of support and jeers from the crowd.
Braynard and other speakers also said they were only there to support non-violent Capitol Riot defendants, though at times there were chants for Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed Jan. 6 while attempting to breach the House chamber.
Though no sitting members of Congress showed up at the rally, two Republican U.S. House candidates, Joe Kent of Washington and Mike Collins of Georgia, spoke to the crowd, and told Forbes they were confident their attendance won’t damage them politically.
Kent, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in his bid to unseat Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who voted for Trump’s impeachment, said “I hope they do” when asked if he thinks Herrera Beutler’s campaign will use his presence at the rally against him.
55%. That’s the share of Trump voters in a YouGov/CBS News poll of 2,238 U.S. adults released in July who described the events at the Capitol on January 6 as “defending freedom,” with 51% describing it as “patriotism.” There was differentiation between violent and non-violent rioters however: Just 25% of Republicans in the poll said they approve of those who forced their way into the building.
Trump called the rally a “setup” in an interview with The Federalist on Thursday, though he also put out a statement decrying the treatment of Capitol riot defendants the same day. Collins and Kent didn’t seem to mind their divergence with Trump, however. “I think today was a very huge success,” Collins said. “It was peaceful, we were able to get our message out loud and clear.”
Kent said he was “a little disappointed” no lawmakers came to the event, suggesting pressure from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was a factor. Kent said he wouldn’t support McCarthy for leader if elected, telling Forbes he would prefer, “Jim Jordan, Jim Banks. Or we can go full disruption in Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz or [Paul] Gosar.”