State capitols step up security amid new safety concerns

A Washington State Patrol trooper talks with members of the Washington National Guard inside a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Washington State Patrol trooper talks with members of the Washington National Guard inside a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week

State capitols across the nation stepped up security Monday, deploying National Guard units, SWAT teams and extra police officers while several legislatures convened amid heightened safety concerns following last week's violence at the U.S. Capitol.

The protections came as the FBI issued a bulletin warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee activated hundreds of National Guard troops to help state police keep order at the state Capitol. At least two people were arrested, including a man who tried to walk past authorities as lawmakers were to begin their session and shouted: “I have every right to witness this.”

At the Georgia Capitol, a state patrol SWAT team walked the perimeter wearing fatigues and carrying rifles while lawmakers gathered inside for the start of a two-year term. State troopers were stationed throughout the Iowa Capitol for opening day as more than 200 people opposing coronavirus mask mandates chanted “freedom” during a peaceful rally.

Legislatures convened in more than a half dozen states. By week’s end, three-fourths of all state legislatures will have opened their sessions. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, many state capitols had already adopted procedures to curb the potential for large crowds, including arranging for lawmakers to meet remotely. Those steps greatly reduced the number of people who are actually working in capitol buildings.

After insurrectionists backing President Donald Trump overran the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, some governors and lawmakers began ramping up security because of online threats suggesting that more mobs could target state capitols.

In Michigan, a state commission voted Monday to ban the open carrying of weapons in the Capitol building.

In Idaho, doors to the House and Senate chambers were locked Monday morning, and two state troopers were stationed at each entrance. In past years, the doors were propped open while an unarmed statehouse staff member controlled access.

During a special session last August, a group that included anti-government activist Ammon Bundy forced its way past overwhelmed troopers and filled the Idaho House gallery despite COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people allowed in. The group called People’s Rights was founded by Bundy and opposes the restrictions. Its leaders were urging members to show up Monday at the Capitol.

Glen Thorne wore a handgun in a holster on his right hip Monday at the Capitol. Openly carrying weapons in the building is legal. Thorne said he wanted to make sure Republican Gov. Brad Little “knows that we’re here.”

“We want to end the state of emergency for Idaho. It’s ridiculous. We all want to go back to a normal state of living,” Thorne said. He did not think the group would cause trouble.

“This is Idaho. We’re all gun-carrying, respectful Republicans,” said Thorne, who lives in Buhl, Idaho, about a two-hour drive to the southeast of Boise.

Republican Idaho Rep. Chad Christensen said he brought a bulletproof vest.

“If I feel things are going to get heightened up, I may put it on,” said Christensen, who also carried a .45-caliber handgun on his belt, which is standard procedure for him.

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and other officials approved construction of a fence around the Capitol last year after racial injustice protests. Kemp has kept a group of National Guard soldiers on active duty to protect state properties since last summer, when protesters smashed windows and set a fire at state public safety headquarters in Atlanta.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, another Republican, said he had “full confidence" that authorities would be "ready to do whatever needs to be done to to protect the members, staff, the public, the media, and all the people that have to be here.”

A memo issued late last month by the FBI office in Minneapolis and confirmed by The Associated Press warned of credible threats for this Sunday at the state capitols in Minnesota and Michigan. The memo said followers of the right-wing Boogaloo movement had done reconnaissance at the Capitol in St. Paul, including scouting police sniper locations that would need to be destroyed if a gunbattle broke out.

Inslee, a Democrat, activated 750 members of the National Guard. On the same day as the deadly riot in Washington, D.C., a group of armed people broke down a gate outside the governor’s mansion in Olympia, Washington, and made it to the porch and front yard before being convinced to leave by police.

On Monday, lawmakers had to drive through an area gated off and guarded by the National Guard to park outside the Capitol. A small group of protesters gathered in the morning, shouting that they should be let inside the building to observe lawmakers.

“It’s a sad day for our country, isn’t it, where you have to have that kind of security around the people who were elected to represent you,” Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer said. “Unfortunately, we live in troubling times, and I do believe we’re going to get through it, but it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort."

In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson's inauguration proceeded Monday without incident. Concrete barriers and extra police — both typical inaugural precautions — surrounded the Capitol grounds where fewer than 2,000 people gathered. Parson told reporters later that security precautions also will be taken at potential upcoming demonstrations, though he was not specific.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican, said he was worried about protests at state capitols planned for this coming weekend and asked for extra security from the Kansas Highway Patrol.

“We’re hopeful that things, people, remain calm and the democratic process can continue,” Ryckman said.

Oregon state police will conduct building security training for those who work at the state Capitol, including journalists, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In Michigan, where armed demonstrators against coronavirus restrictions entered the Capitol last year, there was little discussion as the open-weapons ban was approved. Michigan lawmakers are to return to session Wednesday.

Some of the anti-government extremists accused in a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had attended the earlier lockdown protests. Prosecutors say the accused ringleader initially talked of recruiting 200 men to storm the building, take hostages and “execute tyrants.”

Authorities are aware of recent online posts promoting statehouses marches and would make “both seen and unseen” security enhancements at the Capitol for the next couple weeks, Michigan state police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said.

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Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Keith Riddler, in Boise, Idaho; and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; David Pitt in Des Moines, Iowa; and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon, contributed to this report.

A group of onlookers, some from a “Peoples Rights” group that had been protesting earlier outside the Capitol building in Boise, Idaho, watch Gov. Brad Little’s virtual State of the State address from the Senate Chamber gallery, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Statehouse in Boise. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)
A group of onlookers, some from a “Peoples Rights” group that had been protesting earlier outside the Capitol building in Boise, Idaho, watch Gov. Brad Little’s virtual State of the State address from the Senate Chamber gallery, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at the Statehouse in Boise. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

Credit: Darin Oswald

Credit: Darin Oswald

A member of the Georgia State Patrol SWAT team looks on as people walk by outside of the Georgia State capitol after the opening day of the legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A member of the Georgia State Patrol SWAT team looks on as people walk by outside of the Georgia State capitol after the opening day of the legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Atlanta. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Members of the Georgia House of Representatives stand for the pledge of allegiance during the first day of the 2021 legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Members of the Georgia House of Representatives stand for the pledge of allegiance during the first day of the 2021 legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers the inaugural address after being sworn in to his first full term as governor as a member of the Missouri Highway Patrol stands below Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Jefferson City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers the inaugural address after being sworn in to his first full term as governor as a member of the Missouri Highway Patrol stands below Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Jefferson City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Credit: Jeff Roberson

Steve Rowland speaks as protestors gather in the Iowa Capitol rotunda to voice their opposition to mask mandates, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Steve Rowland speaks as protestors gather in the Iowa Capitol rotunda to voice their opposition to mask mandates, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

Protestors gather in the Iowa Capitol rotunda to voice their opposition to mask mandates, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Protestors gather in the Iowa Capitol rotunda to voice their opposition to mask mandates, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

Credit: Charlie Neibergall

Members of the Washington National Guard stand near a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Members of the Washington National Guard stand near a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

A member of the Washington National Guard stands at a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A member of the Washington National Guard stands at a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Workers begin boarding up the Wisconsin state Capitol building in Madison on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. State officials are concerned about the prospects of state-centered violence in the wake of last week's security breaches at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Todd Richmond)
Workers begin boarding up the Wisconsin state Capitol building in Madison on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. State officials are concerned about the prospects of state-centered violence in the wake of last week's security breaches at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Todd Richmond)

Credit: Todd Richmond

Credit: Todd Richmond

Law enforcement officers stand atop the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. According to organizers, some protesters are unhappy the Legislature will be meeting virtually and in sessions not open to the public, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the 2021 session which opens Monday. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated members of the National Guard this week to work with the Washington State Patrol to protect the Capitol campus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Law enforcement officers stand atop the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. According to organizers, some protesters are unhappy the Legislature will be meeting virtually and in sessions not open to the public, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the 2021 session which opens Monday. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated members of the National Guard this week to work with the Washington State Patrol to protect the Capitol campus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Members of the Washington National Guard stand at a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Members of the Washington National Guard stand at a fence surrounding the Capitol in anticipation of protests Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. State capitols across the country are under heightened security after the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Credit: Ted S. Warren

Credit: Ted S. Warren

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