Washington DC, statehouses brace for potentially violent week
The threat of extremist groups descending on statehouses across the country in demonstrations Sunday prompted some governors to roll out a massive show of force and ramp up security, less than two weeks after a mob overran the nation’s Capitol.
Fencing, boarded-up windows and lines of police and National Guard troops have transformed statehouse grounds ahead of expected demonstrations leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
The stepped-up security measures were intended to safeguard seats of government from the type of violence that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6, when supporters of President Donald Trump swarmed the building while Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote.
The FBI has warned of the potential for armed protests at the nation’s Capitol and all 50 state capitol buildings beginning this weekend. Some social media messages had targeted Sunday for demonstrations, though it remained unclear how many people might show up.
As dawn broke Sunday, state police and National Guard troops stood sentry around a number of statehouses, including those in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But there were no signs yet of protesters.
In Columbus, Ohio, nearly every business around the downtown capital square was boarded up. In Lansing, Michigan, police with dogs patrolled on foot, and a helicopter hovered overhead. In Atlanta, armoured vehicles were stationed on Capitol grounds.
Security in Washington, DC, has also intensified ahead of the inauguration. Tall fencing surrounds the US Capitol, the National Mall is closed to the general public, and the District of Columbia’s mayor asked people not to visit. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country were due in the city by early in the week. On Sunday, National Guard troops who have already arrived were stationed outside the Capitol with officers from the Customs and Border Protection as well as other federal police.
In the states, some authorities said they had no specific indication that demonstrations would occur, much less turn violent. Yet many state officials vowed to be prepared, just in case.