WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is warning of a possible violent militia rally on July 4 in Washington, D.C., according to a law enforcement document obtained by Yahoo News.
The report, dated July 1 and produced by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, says that FBI reporting indicates that suspected violent extremists may be planning to attend a large public gathering for the July 4 holiday on Capitol Hill.
As of mid-June, a private social media platform contained a discussion from four suspected militia members about the “Million Man Patriots Gathering,” the DHS report says, citing FBI intelligence.
“The discussion on the platform indicated it was past time for them to have a ‘peaceful’ rally and inquired whether they were allowed to bring ‘toys’ to DC, likely referring to weapons,” the DHS report states.
The potential size of the event is unknown, and it appears DHS is uncertain that it will actually take place. The report relies heavily on a single report by the FBI, and though DHS was able to find a blog post online from May 27 that appeared to reference the same potential event, privacy restrictions associated with the website prevented DHS from gathering additional information about it.
There are other reasons to be skeptical about the potential for a large event.
The report says that U.S. Capitol Police have indicated that the hotel and bus reservations for the July 4 weekend in D.C. are down nearly 30 percent compared with normal rates for this holiday weekend, and no hotels show block reservations that would suggest large organized groups coming to the nation’s capital.
According to the Capitol Police, there are 11 events with permits over the July 4 weekend, and none are for the “Million Man Patriots Gathering.” DHS has requested information from the Transportation Security Administration on possible domestic terrorists traveling on the Fourth of July weekend
The coordination and communication among government agencies detailed in the report stands in contrast to the run-up to the Jan 6. attack on the U.S. Capitol, when DHS, FBI and Capitol Police were blasted for not sharing information with each other about the political rally that turned violent.
"While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI regularly shares information with our law enforcement partners to assist in protecting the communities they serve," the FBI said in a statement to Yahoo News. "The FBI always encourages members of the public to be vigilant and report anything they consider suspicious to law enforcement."
“DHS is committed to sharing information with our partners to ensure the safety and security of all communities across the country,” a spokesperson for the department told Yahoo News. “We encourage the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to local and state law enforcement, and the FBI.”
The July 4 warning also comes on the heels of last month’s release of the White House Domestic Violent Extremism strategy, which detailed efforts to focus on potential credible threats of violence.
“What we’ve been already doing is trying to share more information of a higher quality that accepts that state of the threat and helps provide guidance on the dates, on the locations, on the types of gatherings that might be appealing targets of this particular type of threat actor,” a senior administration official told Yahoo News in an interview last month about the strategy.
“There is a recognition that we are in a persistent threat environment. State and locals especially, but federal government as well, need guidance on how to prioritize and allocate law enforcement resources in a world in which there is simmering discourse of hatreds and bigotry that can with little to no warning, especially by individuals or small groups, turn violent, and what does it mean to try to address that persistent environment.”
The official emphasized that the administration is focusing on violence, not political expression.
“We bend over backwards to make clear we are laser-focused on violence and threats of violence, so that should leave a wide array of political views to be expressed, particularly on social media, where Americans and others increasingly express those views, and that is part of the cherished tradition of this country,” the official said. “ It’s when they pose particular threats of violence, that’s when they raise concerns.”
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