U.S. law enforcement has been in force in state capitals across the country and Washington, DC, in response to planned protests in support of President Donald Trump which on Sunday had drawn only a small number of people .
More than a dozen states have activated National Guard troops to help secure their Capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed protests ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
Experts said right-wing groups and white nationalists could be emboldened by the deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which was spurred by Trump’s repeated false claims that the election was his. stolen.
Security officials had said Sunday could be a major flashpoint, as the anti-government “Boogaloo” movement planned to hold rallies in all 50 states. The capitals of the battlefield states, where Trump has directed his electoral fraud accusations, were particularly on alert.
By noon, only a few dozen demonstrators had taken to the streets of different towns.
About two dozen people, several of whom carried long guns, protested outside the Ohio Statehouse, while dozens gathered in South Carolina. At the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, a small group of protesters stood near a chain-link fence surrounding the building.
A few protesters in Lansing were armed with guns. One wore fatigue pants, a tactical vest and a blue Hawaiian shirt, a mark of the “Boogaloo” movement, while another wore a Trump t-shirt and waved a “Don’t step on me” flag.
Downtown Washington, DC was also a ghost town on Sunday. Armed National Guard soldiers in camouflage uniform set up checkpoints in the city center, which was closed to traffic with large military vehicles blocking the streets.
‘City on the edge’
Hoda Abdel-Hamid of Al Jazeera, reporting from the US capital, said it looked like “a walled city”.
She said about 11,000 National Guard troops had already arrived Sunday morning and that on inauguration day Wednesday, that number will rise to 25,000.
An area surrounding the White House, Capitol Hill and the National Mall has been closed to traffic since Saturday and will remain so until after the inauguration, Abdel-Hamid reported.
“It really feels like it’s a city on the edge. The mayor of Washington, DC (Muriel Bowser) also said the concerns are not just here in the center, but further afield. The authorities are not taking any risks, ”she said.
Massive police and troop deployments were seen across the country on Sunday.
In Atlanta, several hundred law enforcement and National Guard soldiers gathered around Georgia State House. Chain link fences and cement barriers protected the Capitol grounds, and several armored vehicles were parked nearby.
Some states, including Pennsylvania, Texas, and Kentucky, have taken it a step further by closing their capital lands to the public.
The nationwide security rollout followed the attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by Trump supporters – which led to widespread criticism and questions about how rioters may have invaded the building .
The FBI and other federal agencies warned of an upsurge in violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
It was not clear whether the FBI warning and increased security across the country could have prompted some protesters to call off plans to visit their state capitals.
Some militias and extremist groups have told their supporters to stay home this weekend.