The threat of extremist groups descending on state capitals in a series of demonstrations Sunday prompted governors to roll out a massive show of force and implement tight security measures at statehouses across the country.
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 U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob supporting President Donald Trump overran 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.
Security in Washington, D.C., has intensified ahead of the inauguration. Tall fencing surrounds the U.S. 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.
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. They said they did not want a repeat of the mob’s assault on the Capitol, which left a Capitol Police officer and four others dead. Dozens of other officers were injured.
More than a third of governors had called out the National Guard to help protect their state capitols and aid local law enforcement officers. Several governors issued states of emergency, and others closed their capitols to the public until after Biden’s inauguration day.
Some state legislatures also canceled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week, citing security precautions. Texas is among the states closing their capitol grounds through the inauguration.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety is aware of armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to conduct criminal acts,” said Steve McCraw, the agency’s director.
More than 100 troopers 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 U.S. Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year.