Ten days after rioters breached the US Capitol in a deadly attack that stunned the world, cities nationwide were girding for a potential new wave of violent protests over the weekend, erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops.
The FBI warned police agencies of possible armed demonstrations outside all 50 state capitol buildings starting Saturday through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, fueled by supporters of President Donald Trump who believe his false claims of electoral fraud.
Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Washington were among more than a dozen states that activated their National Guards to strengthen security. Meanwhile, downtown Washington, D.C., was virtually empty, with streets near the Capitol closed and battalions of camouflaged National Guard soldiers taking up positions across the city center.
The nationwide security scramble followed the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by a mix of extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Biden’s election victory.
In pictures: Supporters of President Donald #Trump storm the #USCapitol building to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden's— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) January 7, 2021
election victory. Four people are dead and at least 52 others have been arrested as a result.#WashingtonDChttps://t.co/Fc0wGprDsd pic.twitter.com/zrbBmiBfti
The Democratic leaders of four US congressional committees said on Saturday they had opened a review of the events and had written to the FBI and other intelligence and security agencies asking what was known about threats, whether the information was shared and whether foreign influence played any role.
“This still-emerging story is one of astounding bravery by some US Capitol Police and other officers; of staggering treachery by violent criminals; and of apparent and high-level failures — in particular, with respect to intelligence and security preparedness,” said the letter.
It was signed by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
There were scattered demonstrations on Saturday, but statehouses remained mostly quiet. Law enforcement officials have trained much of their focus on Sunday, when the anti-government “boogaloo” movement made plans weeks ago to hold rallies in all 50 states.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement late Friday that intelligence indicated “violent extremists” may seek to exploit planned armed protests in Austin to “conduct criminal acts.” Texas closed its Capitol through Inauguration Day.
In Michigan, a fence was erected around the Capitol in Lansing, and troopers were mobilized from across the state to bolster security. The legislature canceled meetings next week, citing concern over credible threats.
In a nod to both the coronavirus pandemic as well as security concerns, festivities around Biden’s inauguration will largely be held online, though the president-elect still plans to be sworn in and deliver his inaugural address at the Capitol.
The inaugural committee’s virtual “welcome event” took place on Saturday evening, featuring appearances from union leaders, activists and celebrities such as actor Whoopi Goldberg.
“Make no mistake, the road ahead - it won’t be easy,” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who closed out the event, told viewers. “But America is ready, and so are Joe and I.”