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Conspiracies Fly At Far-Right Rally Near Heavily Guarded Capitol

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The mob attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 continues to have ripple effects throughout the country, and that's where we're going to start today. Remember, back in January, thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol to try to stop lawmakers from certifying the lawful election of Joe Biden as president. And there are still those who refuse to accept the results of the election. Today, there was a rally in Washington, D.C., in support of people being held for their involvement in the January 6 attack. Authorities worried it could turn violent. But as it turns out, the scene today looked very different from the one eight months ago. NPR's Tom Bowman was there, and he's with us now.

Tom, thank you so much for being here.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: So would you just set the scene for us? How was the turnout?

BOWMAN: Well, you know, they expected some 700 people. And I would say no more than 50 or so showed up, you know. They carried American flags and signs saying, Justice for January 6. They wore red, white and blue shirts. And it was almost completely peaceful. We saw only one argument between the competing groups of protesters and counterprotesters. The police weighed in, pulled one of the guys away to cool off, no arrests. And there were actually maybe even more journalists than protesters. Besides local press, there were reporters from all over the world, from Canada, France, Turkey and Belgium. And again, a very, very small turnout at this rally.

MARTIN: Of those few who did turn out, what was their message? What were they saying?

BOWMAN: Well, the overall message was protesting the continued confinement of those arrested during the January 6 insurrection. Now, of course, some 600 were arrested that day. Most have been released or working on plea deals. Now, there are some 78 still being held, and those are charged with more serious crimes of beating up law enforcement or media or have prior criminal records.

Now, one woman named Janie (ph) from South Carolina and Phil (ph) from Kentucky - they only allowed first names 'cause, you know, they don't trust the media. And some of the speakers actually said don't talk to the press. Now, both said there are many more people in jail than the government is reporting. And this is something we heard from several people along with the fact that they believe antifa and Black Lives Matter members actually broke into the Capitol posing as Trump supporters. Let's listen.

PHIL: And those weren't Trump supporters.

BOWMAN: Who were they?

PHIL: They were all wearing - I don't know. I didn't ask them their names. But they were blacked out in gear.

JANIE: So they wore black helmets, black clothes, black backpacks. And who started bursting the windows first? There were some Trump supporters trying to fight them off. I'm sure there were Trump supporters who got involved. But initially, what I saw was what looked like either BLM or antifa.

BOWMAN: And, of course, Michel, I was there that day, January 6, for the insurrection. There's no evidence at all that there was any antifa people or Black Lives Matter people in that crowd. I saw them with my own eyes. Those who have been arrested clearly were Trump supporters. There's no evidence of that.

And, Michel, it's also worth mentioning that almost everyone we talked with also did not trust the COVID vaccine, including that woman Janie, who says she's a nurse practitioner and does not want to get the vaccine.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Tom Bowman. Tom, thank you.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.