Statehouses, US capital brace for potentially violent week

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The threat of extremist groups descending on state capitals during a series of protests on Sunday prompted governors to deploy a massive show of force and implement strict security measures in states across the country.

Fences, boarded up windows and lines of police and National Guard troops transformed state lands ahead of the expected protests leading to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday.

The heightened security measures were aimed at protecting government seats from the type of violence that occurred on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when a crowd supporting President Donald Trump stormed the building as Congress certified the college vote. electoral.

The FBI has warned of the potential for armed protests on the nation’s Capitol and the 50 State Capitol buildings starting this weekend. Some social media posts had targeted protests on Sunday, although it is not known how many people might show up.

Security in Washington, DC, stepped up ahead of the inauguration. High fences surround the US Capitol, the National Mall is closed to the general public, and the mayor of the District of Columbia has asked people not to visit it. Some 25,000 National Guard troops from across the country were due to arrive in the city earlier this week.

In states, some authorities said they had no specific indication that protests would take place, let alone turn violent. Still, many state officials have vowed to be ready, just in case. They said they didn’t want a repeat of the mob assault on the Capitol, which left a Capitol policeman and four others dead. Dozens of other officers were injured.

More than a third of the governors had called on the National Guard to help protect their state capitals and assist local law enforcement. Several governors have issued states of emergency, and others have closed their capitals to the public until after Biden’s inauguration day.

Some state legislatures have also canceled sessions or reduced their work for the coming week, citing security measures. Texas is among the states closing their capital lands at the inauguration.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety is aware of armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and of violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to carry out criminal acts,” said Steve McCraw, director of the agency.

More than 100 soldiers in riot gear were stationed outside the Capitol in Austin earlier this week as lawmakers began a new legislative session.

Even before the violence at the United States Capitol, some state houses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters over the past year.

Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to oppose coronavirus-related lockdowns and were confronted by police. People angry at the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis policeman stuck a knee in his neck for several minutes, vandalizing capital cities in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

And last month, crowds from Oregon broke into the State Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures.

Anticipating the potential for violence in the coming week, the windows on the first floor of the building were closed and the National Guard was deployed. The legislature was due to start its 2021 session on Tuesday, but much of its initial work has been delayed by at least two days due to warnings of potential violence.

“The State Capitol has become a fortress,” said …

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