Wednesday, February 1, 2023

FBI warns of armed protests in American state capitals ahead of Biden inauguration

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State capitals across the country stepped up security on Monday, deploying National Guard units, SWAT teams and additional police officers as several legislatures gathered amid heightened security concerns following the week’s violence last at the US Capitol.

The protections came in when the FBI issued a bulletin warning of plans for armed protests in all 50 state capitals and Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has activated hundreds of National Guard soldiers to help state police maintain order at the State Capitol. At least two people were arrested, including a man who tried to walk past the authorities as lawmakers were due to start their session and shouted, “I have every right to witness this.

At the Georgia Capitol, a state patrol SWAT team scoured the perimeter in fatigues and carrying guns as lawmakers gathered inside for the start of a two-year term. State soldiers were stationed throughout the Iowa Capitol for Opening Day as more than 200 people opposed to the coronavirus mask warrants chanted “freedom” at a peaceful rally.

Legislatures have met in more than half a dozen states. By the end of the week, three-quarters of all state legislatures will have opened their sessions. Due to concerns over the coronavirus, many state capitals had already adopted procedures to limit the potential for large crowds, including holding meetings of lawmakers remotely. These measures have significantly reduced the number of people who actually work in the Capitol buildings.

Prohibition to wear open

After insurgents backing President Donald Trump invaded the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, some governors and lawmakers began stepping up security amid online threats suggesting more crowds could target state capitals.

In Michigan, a state commission voted on Monday to ban the open carrying of weapons in the Capitol building.

In Idaho, the doors to the House and Senate chambers were locked Monday morning and two state soldiers were stationed at each entrance. In recent years, the doors have been kept open while an unarmed state staff member controlled access.

In a special session last August, a group that included anti-government activist Ammon Bundy pushed their way past overwhelmed soldiers and filled the Idaho House gallery despite COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of authorized persons. The group called People’s Rights was founded by Bundy and opposes the restrictions. Its leaders urged members to appear on Capitol Hill on Monday.

Glen Thorne carried a handgun in a holster on his right hip on Monday at the Capitol. Openly carrying weapons in the building is legal. Thorne said he wanted to make sure Republican Gov. Brad Little “knows we’re here”.

“We want to end the state of emergency in Idaho. It’s ridiculous. We all want to get back to a normal state of life, ”Thorne said. He didn’t think the band would cause any problems.

“This is Idaho. We’re all respectful Republicans and gun carriers, ”said Thorne, who lives in Buhl, Idaho, about a two-hour drive southeast of Boise.

Idaho Republican Representative Chad Christensen said he brought a bulletproof vest.

“If I feel like things are going to escalate, I can put it on,” said Christensen, who also carried a .45 caliber handgun on his belt, which is standard procedure for him.

National Guard on call

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and other officials approved the construction of a fence around the Capitol last year after protests against racial injustice. Kemp has kept a group of National Guard soldiers on active duty to protect state property since last summer, when protesters smashed windows and set fire to the state public security headquarters in Atlanta.

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, another Republican, said he had “full confidence” that authorities would “do whatever needs to be done to protect members, staff, the public. , the media and all the people who need to do it. be here.”

A note released late last month by the FBI office in Minneapolis and confirmed by The Associated Press warned of credible threats for this Sunday in the state capitals of Minnesota and Michigan. The memo said supporters of the right-wing Boogaloo movement had carried out reconnaissance at the Capitol in St. Paul, including scouts of the locations of police snipers that would have to be destroyed if a shootout broke out.

Inslee, a Democrat, activated 750 members of the National Guard. On the same day as the deadly riot in Washington, DC, a group of armed people blew up a door outside the governor’s mansion in Olympia, Washington, and made their way to the porch and courtyard before being convinced to leave by the police.

On Monday, lawmakers had to cross a closed area guarded by the National Guard to park in front of the Capitol. A small group of protesters gathered in the morning, shouting that they should be left inside the building to watch lawmakers.

“It’s a sad day for our country, isn’t it, where you have to have that kind of security around the people who have been elected to represent you,” Democratic Senator Patty Kuderer said. “Unfortunately, we are living in troubled times, and I think we are going to get over it, but it is going to take a lot of time and effort.”

In Missouri, the inauguration of Republican Governor Mike Parson went off without incident on Monday. Concrete barriers and additional police – two typical inaugural precautions – surrounded Capitol Park where fewer than 2,000 people gathered. Parson later told reporters that security measures would also be taken during potential future protests, although he was not specific.

Kansas House President Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican, said he was concerned about protests in state capitals slated for this coming weekend and called for additional security from the Kansas Highway Patrol.

“We hope that things, the people, will remain calm and that the democratic process can continue,” Ryckman said.

Oregon State Police will provide building safety training for those who work at the State Capitol, including reporters, Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Michigan, where armed protesters against coronavirus restrictions entered the Capitol last year, there was little discussion when the ban on open weapons was approved. Michigan lawmakers are due to resume their work on Wednesday.

Some of the anti-government extremists accused in a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had attended previous lockdown protests. Prosecutors say the accused leader initially spoke of recruiting 200 men to storm the building, take hostages and “execute tyrants.”

Authorities are aware of recent online posts promoting the state house marches and reportedly making “both visible and invisible” security improvements at the Capitol in the coming weeks, the spokeswoman said. Michigan State Police, Shanon Banner.

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