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Security officials on the lookout for organized violence targeting Electoral College protest

Among the places being monitored for leads is the Telegram messaging application, where radical groups have convened.

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Washington
Washington, D.C., buildings being boarded up before Election Day 2020.
(Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Image)
Updated: January 5, 2021 - 11:51pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Police and other agencies are monitoring private messaging channels from protesters and counter-protesters, following a warning from Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser that outsiders are headed into town for violent confrontations. Outsiders and residents alike are convening inside the District of Columbia for rallies Wednesday pegged to the Electoral College vote certification.

Local and federal agencies are teaming up "to ensure our residents and businesses remain safe," Bowser said early in the week.

Federal agents involved in the effort describe monitoring leads both general and specific.

"It's a highly focused effort to stay ahead of things," said one federal agent who is involved in tracking down leads. The agent and others would not discuss investigations, but confirmed they have received numerous specific reports, including from Trump administration officials who said that arsonists threatened to burn down their homes.

Intelligence officials said they are aware of a recorded threat that was broadcast on air traffic control frequencies on Monday, threatening to fly an airplane into the Capitol on Wednesday. The digitized voice said that the strike would be in retaliation for the U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani last January. Those officials noted that Iran that does not telegraph attacks in advance, and that the threat is being viewed as a psychological maneuver.

Intelligence analysts are more concerned about a potential lone wolf attack on the homeland - and, in the immediate future, about violence pegged to the Jan. 6 rally.

Among the sites being monitored for leads is the Telegram messaging application, where radical groups have convened within virtual channels. Multiple would-be strategists posted their plans and talking points on the supposedly encrypted channels that were viewed by Just the News. 

The Central Pennsylvania Remote Uprising Support Team (RUST) on Tuesday posted advice on how to disrupt pro-Trump caravans headed into Washington, D.C. The RUST group posted a photograph allegedly depicting a line of Trump supporters' vehicles driving to the rally, and advised members to get ahead of the caravan and slow its progress. 

Another group, the Black Lives Revolution, posted the same photo and advice. "Remember, just a few cars changing lanes a few minutes ahead of these guys and they are stuck on a highway waiting for hours," the group wrote. "Plan to organize decentralized through Signal and stay up to date in their route. The more folks who drive down 81 and 83 and change lanes every 5 minutes, the less time they can f--- with DC's community."

Caravaners en route reported a smooth journey.

"I'm right on time to get into town for dinner with my friends," said Andrew Carson of Pittsburgh, who spoke from the road Tuesday afternoon while traveling south. "It's been a nice, peaceful trip so far."

On Craigslist, posts appeared Monday and Tuesday describing where to find piles of bricks, or broken crockery. The postings were vaguely worded, and could be interpreted as innocent or menacing. Wrote one Craiglist user who offered a collection of broken dishes: "Hoping someone crafty can put them to good use."

A counter-activist told Just the News that his own group posted in the "Free Stuff" section a photo and location of a pile of bricks near the Warner Theater on 13th St., NW, hoping that a masonry crew would remove the stash before extremists found it. 

Police in D.C. took aim Monday at Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys organization, arresting him in connection with a Black Lives Matter flag being torn down and burned last month. Authorities charged Tarrio, and then banned him from town until June, when he faces a court hearing. 

Police have not announced any similar high-profile arrests or banishments of leftist extremists. The leftist self-styled insurgent groups, though, are well organized, a force protection and anti-terrorism official told Just the News. 

"Their tactics are not to cross a certain threshold," the official said. "They won't directly engage big groups of opponents."

Instead, the official said, the leftists target lone outliers.

"They probe the outer edges of a large group, using bicycle scouts to find people to attack," the official said. "That's where you'll see stray people being assaulted on the ragged edges of the larger demonstrations, or when the main event is mostly over, and people are going home."

Not all activist groups plan to convene for the rally. 

"We do not recommend participating in any anti-protests, as they are dangerous and honestly not going to help at all," the Black Lives Matter West Virginia warned its members via social media. "If you have to be in the Washington, D.C. area please use extreme caution as our intel has identified some very credible threats."

Bowser similarly asked people to stay home.The Metropolitan Police Department has closed off some roads, and banned parking on routes where protests will take place.

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