If demonstrators flood the Capitol on Saturday to show their support for Jan. 6 insurrectionists detained in Washington, D.C., there may be troops helping hold the line.

The Capitol Police have requested a military presence in their planning for the protest, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to detail the specific request, as is typical ... what I can tell you is, that it will follow the same process that all requests for assistance of the department, when it comes from an outside agency, go through,” Kirby said.

He could not say how many troops were requested and in what capacity they would be supporting Capitol Police. Typically, including throughout civil unrest deployments in 2020, Guardsmen have been activated as crowd and traffic control, rather than in a law enforcement role.

That would mean they have the right to defend themselves if physically threatened, but that they will leave any arrests, as well as any lethal or non-lethal weapon use ― such as mace or rubber bullets ― to the Capitol Police.

The request by Capitol Police represents a shift, as that organization did not request backup from the National Guard on Jan. 6 until after the Capitol had been breached. The mayor of D.C., however, had asked for unarmed troops ― their helmets and shields stored in their vehicles ― to help manage traffic downtown.

Because the District of Columbia is not a state, there is no governor to activate its Guard troops, so requests to support law enforcement must be routed through the Pentagon by one of many agencies in the district.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that intelligence reports suggest that right-wing extremists, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, plan to attend the protest.

In anticipation of a similar crowd to that which descended on the Capitol Jan. 6, protective fencing will go up around the Capitol complex, identical to that which was erected on Jan. 7 and stayed up through the spring.

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT

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