Pence Downplays Trump Protest Threats, Says People Have Right To Assemble

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Former Vice President Mike Pence downplayed concerns of potential protests this week encouraged by former President Donald Trump, who incited the 2021 attacks at the U.S. Capitol, saying people have a “right to peaceably assemble.”

“The American people have a constitutional right to peaceably assemble,” he said in a sit-down interview with ABC News on Saturday.

Anyone wanting to protest Trump’s self-predicted indictment for allegedly covering up hush money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign would know that they must do so peacefully and in a lawful manner, Pence said.

“The violence that occurred on Jan. 6, the violence that occurred in cities throughout this country in the summer of 2020, was a disgrace,” he said, appearing to reference both the Capitol attack and unrelated protests over the murder of George Floyd by police. “The American people won’t tolerate it and those that engage in that kind of violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Pence further dismissed the integrity of any charges filed against Trump, calling it a “politically charged prosecution.” He accused the Manhattan district attorney of making Trump “his top priority” and said that “just tells you everything you need to know about the radical left.”

Earlier on Saturday, Trump urged his supporters, in an all-caps social media post, to “PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST” and “TAKE OUR NATION BACK” while announcing his expected arrest on Tuesday amid a criminal investigation into $130,000 in alleged hush money that was paid to adult actor Stormy Daniels.

His message, which stated that “EVIL & SINISTER PEOPLE” were “DESTROYING” the military and country, was similar to the call to action he made while inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol after losing his reelection bid in 2020. A violent mob went on to ransack the Capitol, resulting in several deaths.

Pence, in a speech earlier this month, directly blamed Trump’s “reckless” words for fueling the insurrection.

“President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable,” he told politicians and journalists at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington.

Law enforcement officials in New York City are planning extra security measures ahead of a potential Trump indictment, several officials told The Associated Press on Friday. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg also told his employees in an email on Saturday not to give in to any intimidation or threats in the wake of Trump’s call for protests.