Protests start small, peacefully at fortified US statehouses

  • Members of the Washington National Guard stand at a sundial near the Legislative Building, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Governors in some states have called out the National Guard, declared states of emergency and closed their capitols over concerns about potentially violent protests. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) Ted S. Warren

  • Local political activist Gene Stilp, right, pulls down a cut-out of President Donald Trump while staging an anti-Trump demonstration in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Sunday Jan. 17, 2021, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma) Jacqueline Larma

  • With the U.S. Capitol in the background, a lock on anti-scaling security fencing is seen on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Washington as security is increased ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin

  • A sign displayed outside the Capitol building in Frankfort, Ky., advises that the grounds are closed, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Some state capitols are closed, fences are up and extra police are in place at statehouses across the U.S. as authorities brace for potentially violent demonstrations over the coming days. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston) BRYAN WOOLSTON

  • Members of the National Guard stand inside the security fencing at the Capitol ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) John Minchillo

  • Timothy Teagan, a member of the Boogaloo Bois movement, stands with his rifle outside the state capitol in Lansing, Mich., Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Paul Sancya

  • Two layers of security fencing is shown encircling the Arizona Capitol Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Phoenix. With the FBI warning of potential violence at all state capitols Sunday, Jan. 17, the ornate halls of government and symbols of democracy looked more like heavily guarded U.S. embassies in war-torn countries. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Ross D. Franklin

  • A DPS state trooper stands guard at the Capitol on the first day of the 87th Legislature, Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021 in Austin, Texas. With the FBI warning of potential violence at all state capitols Sunday, Jan. 17, the ornate halls of government and symbols of democracy looked more like heavily guarded U.S. embassies in war-torn countries. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP) Ricardo B. Brazziell

  • A Georgia State Patrol trooper stands guard outside the Georgia Capitol Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Atlanta. With the FBI warning of potential violence at all state capitols Sunday, Jan. 17, the ornate halls of government and symbols of democracy looked more like heavily guarded U.S. embassies in war-torn countries. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

  • A barrier is guarded on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Washington as security is increased ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) John Minchillo

  • National Guard walk near the Capitol as security is increased ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • National Guard stand outside the Supreme Court as security is increased around the Court ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • A Tennessee State Trooper stands guard on the grounds of the State Capitol Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. The FBI has warned of the potential for armed protests at the nation's Capitol and all 50 state capitol buildings beginning this weekend. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey

  • A woman with a Trump flag draped around her shoulders stands near a blocked off statue of George Washington at South Carolina's Statehouse on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. Law enforcement has been stepped up at state capitols across the country during an expected week of unrest surrounding President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard) Meg Kinnard

  • Law enforcement officers stand watch at South Carolina's Statehouse during an expected day of unrest across the country on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard) Meg Kinnard

  • National Guard trucks are in place near the Capitol as increased security ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) Wong Maye-E

  • Duncan Lemp of the Boogaloo movement stands at the City Plaza.

  • There were more journalists than protesters at the City Plaza in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse on Sunday. Concord Monitor photographs — GEOFF FORESTER

Published: 1/17/2021 5:04:08 PM

Police and National Guard troops stood sentry at newly fortified statehouses Sunday ahead of demonstrations planned for the leadup to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, as authorities worked to deter a repeat of the recent riot that overran the U.S. Capitol. A few protesters were starting to gather in some cities, but streets in many others remained empty.

About two dozen people, several carrying long guns, protested outside the Ohio Statehouse, observed by several of the dozens of state troopers positioned around the building. Several dozen people — some carrying American flags — gathered at South Carolina’s Statehouse.

And at Michigan’s Capitol, a small group of demonstrators, some armed, stood near a chain-link fence surrounding the building as state police walked the grounds and National Guard vehicles were parked nearby.

Tall fencing also now 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 in the coming days.

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 supporters of President Donald Trump swarmed 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.

Authorities in some states 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.

In some locations, a small number of people showed up intending to counter protest, even in places where they had not yet materialized.

One counter-protester came early to greet any demonstrators at the Pennsylvania Capitol, saying he had heard about the possibility of a meet-up of a far-right militant group. But no one else was there.

“I’m fundamentally against the potential protesters coming here to delegitimize the election, and I don’t want to be passive in expressing my disapproval of them coming into this city,” Stephen Rzonca said.

Wisconsin National Guard troops armed with rifles, shields and body armor arrived near the state Capitol on Sunday morning. A man who drove a vehicle up the steps of the Capitol building was arrested overnight for driving while intoxicated.

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.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement Sunday that law enforcement officers “will protect the rights of peaceful demonstrators but will also vigorously resist any violence.”

Some state legislatures also canceled sessions or pared back their work for the coming week, citing security precautions.

Even before the violence at the U.S. Capitol, some statehouses had been the target of vandals and angry protesters during the past year.

Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to coronavirus-related lockdowns and were confronted by police. People angered over the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes, vandalized capitols in several states, including Colorado, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

And just last month, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the state Capitol in Salem to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures.

Anticipating the potential for violence in the coming week, the building’s first floor windows were boarded up and the National Guard has been deployed. The Legislature was scheduled to begin its 2021 session on Tuesday, but much of its initial work has been delayed for at least two days because of warnings about potential violence.

“The state Capitol has become a fortress,” said Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat. “I never thought I’d see that; it breaks my heart.”




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