Protests at state capitols remain small and under heavy police presence after warnings of unrest

By Sunday evening, protests remained rare and peaceful, despite warnings that armed demonstrations were planned in all 50 state capitals and at the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

In Michigan, a group of several dozen protesters – some armed and armored – and counter-demonstrators gathered in light snow at the state capital in Lansing on Sunday morning. But the event took place peacefully, and by noon the crowd had largely dispersed.

There were less than a dozen people at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Louis. Paul – a much smaller group than the journalists and law enforcement officers present. A state official told CNN that the state’s public safety department was cautiously optimistic about the day’s progress.

About two dozen armed protesters demonstrated outside the Texas Capitol in Austin. But they were not running for president; rather, they wanted to point out what they believed was a violation of their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Organizer Ben Hawk said the event had been planned for months and that he had no intention of ending it after this month’s Capitol Hill events, which he described as disgusting.

Biden won the election, he said. He won the popular vote, he won the electoral college, the votes were certified. He will be sworn in as president.

Strong police presence overshadowed by demonstrations

Ahead of the weekend, U.S. state troopers increased security around the capital by deploying National Guard members, erecting barriers, barricading windows, asking residents to avoid the area and even closing the capital.

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But the groups that materialized on Sunday were small and consisted of at most a few dozen protesters.

In Denver, protester Larry Woodall told CNN he was disappointed with the low turnout and said he would support Trump and let him know we care.

Woodall said he does not support violence or unrest on Capitol Hill this month, and he agreed with Biden as president, calling the deal struck.

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We just have to live with it and hope it doesn’t happen the way people say it will, he told CNN they would take our guns, they would force us to do it. I pray to God it’s not.

In Oregon, five armed men in camouflage uniforms and carrying flags arrived at the state Capitol and said they are anti-government liberals who do not support Biden or President Donald Trump.

In Ohio, a small group of protesters stood in front of a statue in Columbus, near a large police station and metal barriers, according to WSYX, a CNN affiliate. And in Colombia, South Carolina, CNN affiliate WIS reports that about 40 protesters gathered at Statehouse to protest free speech after social media companies banned the president.

Meanwhile, in the capitals of Minnesota, Tennessee, California and Colorado, among others, there were many police officers, but few, if any, protesters.

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Since banning Twitter and Facebook, Trump has not encouraged these gatherings, which began with his actions for Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., in contrast to the fact that he has repeatedly urged his supporters to gather in the city.

But lately, the call for online violence has become louder and louder. And experts warn that the perceived success of the deadly riots earlier this month, when pro-Trump mobs overwhelmed police and captured the US Capitol, could be the motive for another attack.

As Carrie Cordero, a CNN national security and legal analyst who worked at the Department of Justice on investigations and terrorism cases in the 2000s, there were several instances on Saturday where we expected an attack to occur after a global event. Now I have the same feeling.

Improving security in Washington for opening

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The increased security, combined with the Covid 19 pandemic, makes opening day like no other.

In Washington, D.C., roadblocks have closed areas that were once open to the public, members of the National Guard have been patrolling near the Capitol, and much of the city is closed to traffic and roads.

According to a joint bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and eight other agencies, the most likely threat to the inauguration comes from domestic extremists, especially those who believe the new government is illegitimate.

In response, the Pentagon authorized up to 25,000 members of the National Guard for inauguration day in Washington, D.C., and much of the area around the nation’s iconic political buildings was fenced off or made inaccessible.

Rehearsals for the ribbon-cutting ceremony will now be rescheduled to Monday due to increased security concerns, said Ken Cuccinelli, acting under secretary of state for homeland security. Cuccinelli cited online discussions about a rehearsal day scheduled for Sunday, but said there were no specific credible threats.

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Due to concerns about possible demonstrations in state capitals, security measures are being taken across the country. The U.S. Postal Service has temporarily removed some mailboxes in several major cities, while the Transportation Security Administration said on Friday that it had significantly tightened security measures.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser urged Americans to enjoy the inauguration from the comfort of their own homes and asked those who do not have to leave to avoid the restricted areas.

Priscilla Alvarez, Jamie Crawford, Lauren Foxx, Omar Jimenez, Lucy Kafanov, Bill Kirkos, Jason Kravarik, Ross Levitt, Artemis Moshtagian, John Passantino, Conor Powell, Manu Raju, Raja Razek, Rebecca Riss, Holly Silverman, Dan Simon, Greg Wallace and Whitney Wild contributed to this report.

 

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