Editor’s note: This story, first published Jan. 14, 2021, has been updated.
The Utah Capitol is closed to tourists. Oklahoma legislators have been warned to stay away from the Statehouse. New Jersey security officials want residents to report any threats they may hear.
States have tightened security around their capitols and in their capital cities across the nation in response to an FBI warning. Armed protests are anticipated in the lead-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration in Washington, D.C.
National Guard Ready
Governors in several states have called up the National Guard, and many are talking among themselves in conference calls to share information about potential extremist action in the coming days.
The Wisconsin Statehouse now sports boarded-up windows on its first floor. There are new cement barriers around the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. On Monday, Michigan officials banned “open carry” of firearms in the Capitol in Lansing and security has been upped at the building, police said.
The protections are aimed at plugging holes in capitol building security. Before last week only two-thirds of them used metal detectors, and about 20 allowed guns inside.
Security has increased, said Michigan State Police spokesperson Lt. Brian Olekysk, but he would not elaborate. “Everything is fluid right now. We’re not being secretive about it, we’re just strategically planning our security measures,” he said.
In a news conference, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, announced that more Minnesota State Patrol officers and National Guard will be around the Capitol.
“There are preparations happening now you don’t see. Especially some of the online stuff, people talking and making threats there,” he said. He and other governors have talked several times this week to share security information, The Washington Post reported.
Last week, while the rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Walz’s 14-year-old son was evacuated by security officers from the governor’s mansion in St. Paul in response to online threats against his family.
In Washington state, where militia groups threatened an armed occupation of the Capitol this week, Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, called up 750 National Guard members to provide security in Olympia. Perimeter fencing now surrounds the Capitol campus, a little more than a week after far-right demonstrators broke through a gate and stormed the grounds of the governor’s mansion. The occupation that organizers had called to begin Sunday evening has yet to materialize.
While many capitols already were closed to the public due to COVID-19, others were open before the riots in Washington, D.C. Now, security officials nationwide are scrambling to protect capitols and their occupants from anticipated gun-toting demonstrators.
“Once again, our state has asked our Citizen Soldiers in the Wisconsin National Guard to answer the call to keep our state, its citizens and its institutions safe,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said in a statement.
Elaine S. Povich covers consumer affairs for Stateline, which published this story Jan. 14, 2021. Stateline is an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Used with permission.