The Secret Service has issued an intelligence bulletin warning of additional armed protests in Washington before and after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden—particularly from the Boogaloo Boys—that in some cases it expects to become violent.
The Secret Service bulletin, dated Jan. 11, is unclassified but marked not for distribution outside law-enforcement channels, and was obtained by The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast is declining to give specifics for these rallies to prevent insurrectionists from organizing through the media.
Although the primary responsibility of the Secret Service is to protect the president, the intelligence bulletin warns of demonstrations slated for state capitols as well. That bolsters a recent warning from the FBI about armed protests across all 50 states. A previous report by Yahoo News said a Dec. 24 document from the FBI’s Minnesota field office also warned state and local authorities of threats from right-wing extremist groups at protests in Washington and other state capitols planned for later this month.
One demonstration cited in the document is scheduled to take place before the inaugural by the Boogaloos, a loose collective meme-turned-movement of enthusiasts for a second civil war, several adherents of which have been arrested and charged for violence during summer and fall 2020 counterprotests against Black Lives Matter. “Although no civil disobedience has been confirmed,” the bulletin states, “organizers have encouraged attendees to bring weapons to the event.”
Another demonstration scheduled for before the inaugural aims to bring “armed citizens” out for a show of force across both state capitals and Washington, D.C., though the sponsor group, Tree of Liberty, which is affiliated with the Boogaloo, alleges to be peaceful.
Although the incitement social-media network Parler has been de-platformed by Apple and Amazon, the Secret Service tracked a user calling for a “Come and Take It” rally, a reference to the Spartan-Persian battle of Thermopylae, that “mentions fighting and posted, ‘never never never stop fighting.” It aims to bring supporters to the Capitol and the White House to “literally PHYSICALLY STOP THE STEAL.”
Backlash from the larger social media and web hosting companies to the Jan. 6 insurrection has had a disruptive effect on planning for right-wing demonstrations, the bulletin found. But that also has the effect of limiting the Secret Service’s “ability to review information for… situational awareness on these events,” it concedes. Users frustrated by the shutdown of Parler and the de-platforming of many Twitter users are moving to the secure messaging apps Telegraph and Signal, the Secret Service bulletin states.
While many of the demonstrations tracked by the Secret Service are cited in the bulletin as typical political protest, from both left-wing and right-wing groups, some of the inauguration protests are expected to be violent.
One planned demonstration, called a Million Militia March, displays a logo bearing crossed AR-15s, an ersatz military patch, and both American and Gadsden flags, and purports to be the “1st Regiment of the Restored American Republic.” The bulletin says organizers “have encouraged attendees to bring weapons to the event through the use of images of weapons on promotional materials for the event. The group claims they will not attack, but will defend.” The District of Columbia does not honor any other state’s gun license or permit.
Yet the Secret Service suggests that the event “appears to be a rough concept” of an organizer prone to posting statements like “I am the smartest human.” But the prevalence of such posts, it continues, might nevertheless give the event a momentum of its own. The organizer “encouraged attendees to wear attire depicting guns and MAGA paraphernalia,” and the iconography of the event includes a picture of an AR-15-style long gun with the caption “To All Democrats: Enjoy Hell.”
During a press briefing on Tuesday, the acting U.S. attorney spearheading the prosecutorial response to the insurrection stated that a grand jury is empaneled to look at additional charges for the Jan. 6 rioters, including sedition and conspiracy–a suggestion that charges may extend beyond those who participated in the riot to ensnare the Republican politicians who incited it. A senior FBI official, Assistant Director Steven D’Antuono of the Washington Field Office, stated that the bureau was continuing to receive information to disrupt “possibly future violent activity.”
Multiple agencies detailed to help secure the inauguration are contingency planning for events that result in mass casualties or major attacks as well as isolated, violent incidents near the Capitol, according to two senior officials and a separate law enforcement briefing packet obtained by The Daily Beast.
As of Wednesday, President Donald Trump has been briefed by some officials on possible security threats to the Biden inauguration, a White House official told The Daily Beast. Two other sources with direct knowledge of the matter say that in private conversations over the past week, Trump has continued entertaining wildly incorrect conspiracy theories that antifascists had infiltrated the MAGA mob during the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and had caused trouble. Trump has also asked advisers and confidants to look into such rumors.
The president has also raised the antifa and false-flag theories in discussions about potential threats during Inauguration Day, the sources said.
White House spokespeople did not immediately provide comment for this story on Wednesday.
House members were set to be briefed by the Secret Service on Wednesday afternoon about inauguration security measures, according to a congressional source. Senators received a similar briefing on Tuesday.
On Monday, House Democrats got an initial look at the current environment of violent, right-wing threats during a sobering phone briefing from law enforcement. In that call, first reported by HuffPost and later confirmed by The Daily Beast, authorities outlined four different threats from extremists, from a plan to avenge the death of Ashli Babbitt, the MAGA rioter killed by police on Jan. 6, to general danger to lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
As National Guardsmen patrolled the halls of the Capitol building on Wednesday, lawmakers confessed to being uneasy—or at least uncertain—about how they might be kept safe next week.
“I feel safe today,” Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the third-ranking House Democrat, said to Capitol reporters on Wednesday. “I have no idea how I’m going to feel on the 20th.”