In the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this month by President Trump-supporting rioters, urgent security preparations for Inauguration Day are underway in more than just the nation’s capital. Law enforcement officials are also bracing for potential violence in state capitals across America, taking steps to fortify government buildings and protect state lawmakers.
The preparations largely come in response to a warning the FBI issued to local law enforcement on Monday, which cautioned that extremists, conspiracy theorists, and hate groups have called for armed protests in all 50 states.
“We don’t want everybody looking at Washington as the whole universe of security issues,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said
Intelligence officials say they have picked up increasing online chatter about attacks across the country since January 6, Cuccinelli warned. However, the talk has been light on particulars, providing law enforcement with few actionable details.
“There’s nothing that specific,” Cuccinelli explained. “So it becomes a question for law enforcement agencies: How much do you invest in preparing for something unspecific?”
In response, states are fortifying their Capitol buildings, surrounding them with chain-link fences and boarding up windows. In some states — including Michigan, California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida —preparations include activating the National Guard to be stationed their capital cities and deploying them to their capital cities. In states such as Pennsylvania and Texas, the state Capitol will be closed in the days surrounding the inauguration, and legislative activity is canceled entirely this coming week in Indiana and Michigan.
In Michigan, officials are taking extra precautions, in part, because of their recent experience with the threat of domestic terrorism over the past year. Last spring, militia members armed with assault weapons occupied the State Capitol building in Lansing, claiming the state’s coronavirus precautions were violating their constitutional rights. Months later, several of the same militiamen were charged in a sobering plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
This past Monday, the state’s Capitol Commission voted to ban the open carry of firearms within the state Capitol building. But Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said there is an urgent need for even more security in light of the ongoing threat of political violence.
“Are you still going to allow people to walk in with firearms, even if they’re concealed?” she said in an interview with 60 Minutes. “Are you still going to allow people to walk in with bags or backpacks that you’re not going to explore to some extent?”
Nessel said attorneys general from several states are sharing ideas and intelligence, but tracking potential violence is becoming more difficult, as many social media companies have begun limiting extremist activity on their platforms.
“But that chatter is still out there,” Nessel said. “That interest in causing a havoc both in Washington, D.C. and at state capitals around the country, it’s still there. And we still have to be very prepared for it. Much more prepared than they were in Washington, D.C. last week or that we were in Lansing back in April.”
The video above was produced by Will Croxton and Brit McCandless Farmer. It was edited by Will Croxton