The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals, as well as Washington, in the days leading up to US president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly siege at the US Capitol.
An internal FBI bulletin on Sunday said that the nationwide protests could start later this week and extend through Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday next week, two law enforcement officials said.
Investigators believe some of the people are members of extremist groups, the officials said.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official.
The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI on Dec. 29 warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures, the second official said.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve,” the FBI said in a statement. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity.”
The FBI said that it was not focused on peaceful protests, but “on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
US Army General Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, on Monday told reporters that the guard is also looking at any issues across the nation.
“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested,” Hokanson said.
The riots followed weeks of online calls for violence in the nation’s capital in the waning days of US President Donald Trump’s term.
There have been several arrests and at least two Capitol Police officers — one who took a selfie with rioters and another who put on a “Make America Great Again” hat — have been suspended.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said authorities in state capitals and other major cities should prepare for the possibility of violent protests in the next week.
“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” Pitcavage said. “State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up, especially assuming that they think there might be a huge presence of police and military in [Washington] DC because of what happened last week.”
Pitcavage tracks militia, white supremacists and other far-right extremists, but said that the Capitol riot demonstrated the emergence of a new movement of “Trumpist extremists, so caught up in the cult of personality around Trump that they may be willing to break the law or engage in violence purely in support of Trump and whatever he wants.”
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