In reaction to expected demonstrations in favor of President Donald Trump that had attracted only a small number of people on Sunday, U.S. law enforcement officers were out in force at state capitols around the country and in Washington, DC.
After an FBI warning of armed protests in advance of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, more than a dozen states have activated National Guard troops to help protect their capitol buildings.
Experts have said that right-wing groups and white nationalists may be emboldened by the deadly January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, spurred by Trump’s repeated false statements that he was robbed of the presidency.
As the anti-government “Boogaloo” movement had planned to hold rallies in all 50 states, security officials had said Sunday might be a major flashpoint. Especially on high alert were capitals in swing states, where Trump has discussed his allegations of voter fraud.
By midday, in different cities, only a few dozen demonstrators had taken to the streets.
Outside the Ohio Statehouse, about two dozen people, several carrying long guns, protested, while dozens rallied in South Carolina. A small group of demonstrators stood at Michigan’s Capitol in Lansing near a chain-link fence surrounding the building.
In Lansing, a number of the demonstrators were armed with rifles. “One wore fatigue pants, a tactical vest and a Hawaiian blue shirt, a “Boogaloo” movement trademark, while another wore a Trump T-shirt and waved the flag “Don’t stomp on me.
On Sunday, approximately 100 police officers and National Guard troops were assigned to secure the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, but only a handful of Trump supporters emerged. In anticipation of larger crowds, police opened roads around the building that had been blocked off.
‘A City on security alert’
There are reports from the US capital, which states it felt like “a fortified city.”
It was said that about 11,000 troops of the National Guard had already arrived on Sunday morning, and that number would increase to 25,000 by Wednesday’s inauguration day.
Since Saturday, areas around the White House, Capitol Hill and the National Mall has been closed to traffic and will remain so until after the inauguration.
On Sunday, heavy police and troop deployments were seen across the region.
Several hundred law enforcement officers and soldiers from the National Guard milled around Georgia’s statehouse in Atlanta. The Capitol grounds were secured by chain-link fences and cement walls and several armoured vehicles were deployed nearby.
The next step was taken by several states, including Pennsylvania, Texas and Kentucky, to close their capitol grounds to the public.
The national security deployment followed the assault by Trump supporters on the US Capitol in Washington, leading to widespread outrage and concerns about how the rioters were able to over run the building.
The FBI and other federal departments have warned of more abuse leading up to the inauguration of Biden on Wednesday.
It was not clear if the alert from the FBI and increased security across the country may have pushed some protesters to cancel plans to go to their state capitals.
This weekend, some militias and hardline organizations have advised their backers to stay home.