States Slam Shut, Board Up Capitols, Anticipating Violence

By: - January 14, 2021 12:00 am

Workers at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, board up ground floor windows in anticipation of violence. Officials across the country are activating National Guard troops and shutting down capitols after the FBI warned of potential actions by armed protestors. Todd Richmond/The Associated Press

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.

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, New York. Michigan officials banned “open carry” of firearms in the Capitol in Lansing and security has been upped at the building, police said.

The protection is 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. On Monday, Michigan banned guns in its Capitol.

Security has increased, said Michigan State Police spokesperson Lt. Brian Olekysk on Thursday, 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 Gov. 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, Gov. 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.

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Elaine S. Povich
Elaine S. Povich

Elaine S. Povich covers consumer affairs for Stateline. Povich has reported for Newsday, the Chicago Tribune and United Press International.