As troops with long cannons patrolled a newly erected security fence around much of Capitol Hill on Saturday, some neighbors were pleased with the increased security presence, while others were concerned about the extent of the violence as Police and National Guard troops gathered in front of one possible violence – legal and nationalist rallies on Sunday.
Dr. Julia Skapik, 41, who lives near the Capitol, said the increased police activity had made her feel safer and sent a strong message to potential rioters: “There’s no opportunity here, so don’t even try . ”
Some of their neighbors had left town while others had boarded up their homes and brought stray bricks to their backyards for fear they might be hurled by potential attackers after last week’s deadly pro-Trump extremist uprising in the Capitol, outgoing President .
“I would much rather be here because what the federal government has to raise is much more than the states,” she said.
Neighbor Edna Boone, also a healthcare worker, stood next to her and said she understood the need to send a message but was also disturbed by the show of force, which could not sleep as convoys continued to arrive every night.
“This is worrying,” said Boone, 57.
The FBI warned law enforcement agencies across the country last week that right-wing groups were planning to hold protests in Washington and state capitals on Sunday. Flyers circulating online have urged people to assemble at noon, “armed at their own discretion”.
On Saturday, Democratic leaders from four congressional committees said they had contacted the FBI and other agencies and opened a January 6th investigation into the January 6 attack to see what was known in advance of threats, whether and whether the information was adequately disclosed foreign influence played a role.
Commercial airlines have seen a recent surge in passengers checking firearms on their trip to the Washington area, according to a Justice Department bulletin, and several airlines have announced they will not allow passengers to check in guns.
This week, more than 25,000 National Guard troops were deployed to secure the U.S. Capitol. Governors in California and over half a dozen other states have also used National Guard troops to protect their state capitals. In Oregon, state lawmakers postponed a session slated to begin Tuesday for at least two days, citing safety concerns.
Some national right-wing groups, including the Boogaloo Boys, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, warned supporters not to participate in weekend protests. Group members have speculated online that the protests were “false flags” staged by federal officials who have already filed criminal charges against numerous participants in the Capitol Riot.
“The domestic enemies of the constitution are doing everything possible to host false flag events across the country right now,” Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes wrote on the group’s website. “They WANT you to come armed to the state capital, where their paid provocateurs can involve innocent patriots in a staged false flag event. Don’t give them what they want. “
This week, more than 25,000 National Guard troops were deployed to secure the U.S. Capitol.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Rhodes told the Oath Guards and other militias to instead “assemble” outside of state capitals “in a friendly” red “county where you have a patriotic constitutional sheriff, county commissioners and county judge.”
A channel called Boogaloo Intel Drop, created after the attack on the Capitol via Telegram, sent a message to more than 8,000 followers: “No, we are not going to tell you to show up on day XX and do XX.” because that would be “Fedposting” – warning to federal officials.
Others, like the Telegram channel Proud Boys Uncensored – with more than 35,500 followers – praised Ashli Babbitt, the San Diego veteran who died in the siege of the Capitol, and urged further uprising.
“The mistakes the patriots made at the Capitol were that they didn’t go far enough,” they wrote. “If they attack you it’s ‘the law’ and if your anger swells beyond zero representation or voice, they call it terrorism.”
Federal authorities have accused people in several states of making threats or attempting to breach security in connection with the expected protests over the weekend.
Late Friday, 31-year-old Wesley Allen Beeler of Front Royal, Virginia, was stopped and arrested at a US Capitol security checkpoint with an unauthorized passport after authorities brought in a loaded 9-millimeter pistol and more than 500 rounds of ammunition found his pickup truck with stickers that read “Life of attack” and “If they come for your guns, give them your bullets first.”
Beeler appeared before the DC Supreme Court on Saturday, where a judge ordered him to stay away from Washington and released him at his own discretion.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order activating the National Guard in the capital Tallahassee on Friday, hours after the FBI arrested a local that weekend on charges of threat of violence. Daniel Baker, 33, an Army veteran, was charged with delivering a threat of kidnapping or injury. According to court records, he was accused of posting a “call to arms” online on Thursday.
“This arrest serves as a message to anyone who incites or wants to commit violence. If you pose a threat to public safety, we will meet you, find you and prosecute you,” said Lawrence Keefe, US Attorney for the Northern District from Florida said in a statement.
Tallahassee Mayor John E. Dailey thanked DeSantis for activating the National Guard.
“If we have learned something from last week’s events, we cannot risk being under-prepared for the potential threat from those who want to attack the citadel of democracy in our state, who may have been encouraged by last week’s events . ” Dailey wrote on Twitter.
On Saturday, police erected barricades in front of the Florida State Capitol and blocked nearby roads. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged their employees to work remotely in the coming days.
In Texas, Troy Anthony Smocks, 58, of Dallas, was accused on Friday of delivering threats after traveling to Washington last week. He reportedly posted on Parler that he would return armed for the inauguration and take action.
“Kittel threatened that he and others would hunt down these cowards like the traitors each of them are, and specifically threatened RINOS, Dems and Tech Execs,” according to court records.
The Texas Department of Public Security closed the State Capitol in Austin late Friday through Wednesday over what its director described as “violent extremists who may try to take advantage of constitutionally protected events.” State and Texas State Guard forces surrounded the grounds on Saturday as a small group of protesters gathered on the nearby sidewalk, some armed.
“We are here to protect democracy,” said 42-year-old Rocky Reno, who wore a flake vest and carried an AR-15 rifle, along with other self-described “peacekeepers”. “There is no doubt that this election was stolen.”
Helicopters regularly flew overhead, but the scene remained calm.
In Washington, the Eighty Percent Coalition, a group allied with President Trump, withdrew its application for permission to protest near the Capitol on Saturday afternoon, but some Trump supporters still came to the area.
Trump supporter Milosh Jecmenic, a truck driver who splits his time between Washington and Miami, visited the security fence at Black Lives Matter Plaza to film videos and photograph himself near a handful of anti-Trump protesters.
Jecmenic, 36, a Serbian immigrant wearing a US flag protective mask, said he was unarmed, not affiliated with any group and not a “fanatic”. But he also defended those who stormed the Capitol, saying they had the right to protest. He noted that buildings were also damaged during the Black Lives Matter protests.
Jecmenic said he has a room in a nearby hostel and plans to stay to protest during the inauguration.
“I think there are people in town who will show up,” he said. “Some things are worth fighting for.”
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Washington, McDonnell from Austin and Lee from Tallahassee. The Times staffers, Del Quentin Wilber in Washington, Richard Read in Olympia, Washington, Jaweed Kaleem in Phoenix, and Molly O’Toole in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.