More than a dozen Metro train stations in the nation's capital are closing and as many as 20,000 National Guard troops will swarm the city Wednesda
More than a dozen Metro train stations in the nation’s capital are closing and as many as 20,000 National Guard troops will swarm the city Wednesday for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The nation’s capital and cities across the nation on Thursday were developing plans to improve security as Inauguration Day ticked closer. But an FBI warning of possible armed protests at state capitol buildings across the nation next week, along with likely rallies in other cities, raises the question of whether the country can be fully prepared for possible violence. And whether that threat ends when the inaugural festivities wrap up.
Groups tracking right-wing extremist organizations have said preparations for more violence are underway by supporters of Donald Trump who believe falsely that he won the 2020 election. Talk of violence comes as little surprise to University of Maryland historian Terry Bouton.
Bouton, who has joined or witnessed dozens of protests in Washington over the last two decades, says he hasn’t seen anything quite like what transpired Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. And he wasn’t even close enough to see the chaos inside.
Five deaths have been linked to the riots as protesters overwhelmed police at the scene, smashing windows and cavorting about congressional offices. Dozens of arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing.
“Some people were so angry, screaming with outrage, yet it all seemed so well-organized and orchestrated,” Bouton said of the crowd outside. “If they are using similar kinds of tactics elsewhere they are going rile up a lot of people who had no plan to engage in violence.”
Some in Congress bristle at tighter security: Justice Department pledges to keep Capitol safe through inauguration
Robert Pape, a political science professor and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats at the University of Chicago, says the nationwide show of force by police and Guard members could discourage violent activity next week. But the end of the inauguration could be just the beginning of the resistance, he says.
“All this might mean Plan 1 is taken off the table, but it doesn’t mean others are taken off the table,” Pape said. “Domestic terrorists have the money and access to materials for chemicals and other types of attacks. And they have time.”
In D.C., tours have been halted at the Washington Monument. The National Park Service said no decision had been made on whether to close the entire National Mall, a majestic two-mile stretch from the Lincoln Memorial on the west end to the U.S. Capitol on the east.
‘Everyone is on high alert’: While National Guard is in DC, state Capitols prepare for potential armed protests
Police and National Guard officials pledged increased security at most state Capitol buildings. Cities that don’t house state governments were not sitting out the preparations. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week there were no tangible threats against the city but that officials were “absolutely ready if one emerges to move the resources in place to address it quickly.”
NYPD said it had boosted security at Trump Tower and elsewhere as a precaution.
“From now through the inauguration we will have a robust presence at Trump affiliated locations,” the police department announced days after the Capitol riot. “After the inauguration we will reevaluate our security posture.”
In Los Angeles on the day of the Capitol riot, six people were arrested after multiple fights erupted as dozens of Trump supporters rallied in front of City Hall. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said there were no known threats but that it is “monitoring the situation” and will be prepared should protests or violence take place.
“You can’t monitor them,” Bouton said of right-wing extremist groups who might be preparing for violent confrontations. “They got knocked off of Twitter and Parler, so they are on encrypted sites now. Who knows what they are talking about.”
Pape said serious, strong groups are “not likely to announce themselves on Twitter.” The repeated talk of a stolen election is the “oxygen” that provides social approval for the political cause, Pape said. And that encourages the extremists.
Facing criminal charges, getting fired from jobs and losing support for their cause is the best way to discourage them, Pape said.
“That’s why it’s so important for Republican leaders to say the election was not stolen,” Pape said. “The best thing would be for Donald Trump to say ‘I was wrong.'”