Tight security at capitols across the country as Joe Biden prepares for his inauguration


Security being prepared during inauguration day at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC

(CNN) — The US Capitol in Washington, DC, and state capitols across the country are under tight security on Wednesday as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to be inaugurated.

After a pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol two weeks ago, the FBI warned of possible armed protests at the Capitol and all 50 state capitols in the days leading up to and including inauguration.

The warning has led to a massive security presence in DC. About 25,000 National Guard members are present and much of the area around the National Mall and Capitol are inaccessible to the public. States, too, have bolstered their defenses by setting up fences and barriers, boarding up windows, and calling in the National Guard.

So far, the large security efforts have dwarfed the protests that materialized. But the tensions remain high.

On Sunday, small gatherings of protesters, some of whom were armed, stood outside capitols in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and several others states, but many other state capitols that had prepared for the worst encountered just a handful of people. All of the protests were peaceful.

The security efforts have even extended to vetting National Guard members arriving in Washington for the inauguration in case of an “insider threat.”

“While we have no intelligence indicating an insider threat, we are leaving no stone unturned in securing the capital,” Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said Monday.

Twelve Army National Guard members were removed from inauguration duty as part of the security vetting to ensure none of the troops have ties to extremist groups, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said Tuesday.

Between the security concerns and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Biden’s inauguration will be unlike any other in American history.

Protests mostly quiet so far

FBI Director Christopher Wray warned last week that the FBI has been seeing “extensive” chatter surrounding the inauguration.

“Together with our partners we evaluate those threats and what kind of resources to deploy against them. Right now we’re tracking calls for potential armed protest,” he said.

Since then, there have been a few armed protesters at state capitols, but those that occurred have been relatively small and with varying political views.

In Richmond, Virginia, for example, several armed demonstrators who gathered on Monday identified themselves as members of the Proud Boys and Boogaloo groups as well as the Black Panthers. Outside Oregon’s capitol in Salem, five armed people dressed in camouflage said they were anti-government libertarians who supported neither Trump nor Biden.

The heavy security and ongoing arrests of people who participated in the storming of the US Capitol may be playing a role in discouraging the protests.

Anti-government groups that vowed to show up in the days before the inauguration appear to have been spooked in part by their own conspiracies that the government was behind some of the nationwide protests that have so far fizzled.

Law enforcement officials say there is a broad surveillance net focused on people in the groups who participated in the Capitol attack. One of the prominent themes emerging is that the very anti-government conspiracies that drive groups like the Oath Keepers and other militants has become a driver to avoid the protests, fearing that they were being set up for arrest.

Some of the people most likely to attend these types of events are also trying to lower their profile after participating in the insurrection, law enforcement officials said.

Some have seen their faces in FBI posters circulated in the past week. In some cases, members of the groups have turned themselves in, hoping to gain some benefit from not waiting for the FBI come find them.


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