Capitol Protests Live Updates: Washington and States Brace for Trouble

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Minnesota law enforcement agencies guarding the state Capitol on Saturday.
Credit…Octavio Jones for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Military vehicles and police barricades lined the streets of the nation’s capital and surrounded statehouses across the country on Sunday, as officials braced for pro-Trump protests amid concerns about potential violence or domestic terrorism.

Striving to head off any repeat of the riot less than two weeks ago, when President Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol in Washington, D.C., state officials have deployed National Guard troops, shut down statehouse grounds and delayed legislative sessions in response to F.B.I. notices that white supremacists and right-wing extremists could target capital cities across the country.

People posting on right-wing websites and social media have called for supporters to march on Washington and all 50 state Capitols on Sunday, with plans in Washington for a march to end at the White House. In recent days, however, as officials have beefed up precautions, some posters sought to discourage people from turning out, making it unclear what to expect.

In Washington, concerns mounted over the weekend ahead of the presidential inauguration on Wednesday. A militarized “green zone” grew downtown, as streets were blocked by concrete barricades and military vehicles, and police sirens blared frequently on Saturday. Pentagon officials said that 9,500 National Guard members from 46 states and 3 territories had arrived in Washington by Saturday, and that as many as 25,000 are expected by Wednesday.

Federal officials are vetting hundreds of possible airplane passengers, putting any who have been identified among the violent protesters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 on a “no fly list.” The Transportation Security Administration added federal marshals on flights and explosive-detection dogs at airports.

State capitals were quiet on Saturday, but many streets around Capitol buildings were heavily policed and militarized, and looked similar to those in downtown Washington Across the country, at least 19 states activated National Guard units.

In Virginia, site of a rally a year ago on Martin Luther King’s Birthday that drew thousands of gun-rights protesters to Richmond and prompted concerns about violent extremism, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a warning: “If you’re planning to come here or up to Washington with ill intent in your heart, you need to turn around right now and go home.”

Potentially violent protests are expected on Sunday and Wednesday in Michigan, where armed and angry demonstrators crowded into the State Capitol in April to protest coronavirus lockdown orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has activated the Michigan National Guard, and a six-foot fence has been erected around the Statehouse in Lansing, where windows of state office buildings have been boarded up.

The state Legislature has canceled several sessions scheduled for this week after “credible threats” were received by Michigan State Police.

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California authorized the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops and had the State Capitol grounds in Sacramento surrounded with a chain-link fence.

“There will be no tolerance for violence,” Mr. Newsom said last week, referring to the attack on the nation’s Capitol. “California will take every necessary measure to protect public safely and our democratic principles, and to ensure that those disgraceful actions are not repeated here.”

Washington on Sunday.
Credit…Dionne Searcey/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Here is what our reporters are seeing on Sunday in the capital of a nation on edge.

  • As the morning wore on, the corner of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue was a scene from an occupied city. A tall, stiff metal fence blocked the public from getting any closer to the Capitol, 500 yards to the east. Inside the fence, soldiers holding military weapons stood talking near a large jumble of cardboard boxes and water bottles. Dozens more were getting off a large black and orange bus.

    Traffic lights over the intersection cycled uselessly between red to green. The Capitol gleamed in the sunlight, with five American flags hanging vertically just beneath the dome.
    — Sabrina Tavernise

  • Breakfast in a boarded-up district: Some National Guard troops near the Capitol brought their comrades breakfast around 9 a.m., while law enforcement officers and reporters filed into one of the few open coffee shops in the center of the city. Many businesses in the area around the Capitol and the White House were boarded up, and retail stores and eateries were closed.

    On K Street around the corner from Black Lives Matter Plaza, about 15 National Guard soldiers huddled outside the Hyatt hotel, some taking a smoke break and chatting, others grabbing a bite of food wrapped in aluminum foil.

    Pedestrians stopped in the plaza, including one group with a little girl still in her pajamas, and some took pictures while songs in English and Spanish boomed from loudspeakers. A few anti-Trump protesters held Black Lives Matter flags and sat bundled up in folding chairs on the yellow letters filling the pavement from curb to curb.
    — Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio

  • A scattering of early risers: As the sun rose over the Capitol, all was still except for the troops of armed soldiers spilling into the street from behind tall fencing. Constitution Avenue was closed to vehicles, leaving the expansive roadway wide open for early morning runners like me.

    A few workers walked down the street clutching coffee cups; a homeless person slept atop the vents blowing warm air from the Metro subway station below. A couple of sightseers were in front of the armored vehicles and black fencing that kept people from the Capitol grounds, snapping photos of the building framed by a hot pink sky.
    — Dionne Searcey

  • “They’re protecting us”: Pedestrians seemed more curious than worried, walking with dogs and drink cups, looking at how much of the city had been blocked off with barricades. A small group of National Guard soldiers stood on 17th Street just north of K Street, a couple of blocks from the White House, looking at their phones and nodding at passers-by.

    Shortly before 9 a.m., at Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street, Smokey Sims, 33, was doing a little dance to a Wilco song blasting from a speaker, with the lyric “All you fascists were born to lose.” Was he nervous about what might happen today? “We got the military out here, so we’re good,” he answered.

    “I pray nothing happen, but even if it does, I feel like we’re protected,” he added. “Most of the cops here, they’re protecting us. And look at all those National Guard,” he said, motioning toward a group of soldiers walking by on I Street.
    — Sabrina Tavernise

A mob climb the walls of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The ragged camps of far-right groups and white nationalists emboldened under President Trump have long nursed an overlapping list of hatreds and goals: Overthrowing the government. Igniting a second Civil War. Banishing racial minorities, immigrants and Jews. Or simply sowing chaos in the streets.

But now they have been galvanized by the outgoing president’s false claims that the election was stolen from him — and by the violent attack on the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 that hundreds of them led in his name.

“The politicians who have lied, betrayed and sold out the American people for decades were forced to cower in fear and scatter like rats,” one group, known for pushing the worst anti-Semitic tropes, commented on Twitter the day after the attack.

The Capitol riots served as a propaganda coup for the far right, and those who track hate groups say the attack is likely to join an extremist lexicon with Waco, Ruby Ridge and the Bundy occupation of an Oregon wildlife preserve in fueling recruitment and violence for years to come.

Even as dozens of rioters have been arrested, chat rooms and messaging apps where the far right congregates are filled with celebrations and plans. An ideological jumble of hate groups and far-right agitators — the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, the Boogaloo movement and neo-Nazis among them — are now discussing how to expand their rosters and whether to take to the streets again this week to oppose the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Some, enraged by their failure to overturn the presidential election, have posted manuals on waging guerrilla warfare and building explosive devices.

“People saw what we can do, they know what’s up, they want in,” boasted one message on a Proud Boys Telegram channel earlier this week.

The State Capitol in Richmond, Va., and the square in front of the building were secured with fencing and boards on Friday.
Credit…Brian Palmer for The New York Times

RICHMOND, Va. — Police officers have shut down the square around Virginia’s Capitol and plan to close streets in downtown Richmond on Sunday and Monday in an attempt to discourage the kind of violent mob that surged through the nation’s Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.

State capitals across the country were on high alert following an F.B.I. bulletin last week warning of planned violence against the government, but concerns were particularly high in Richmond. This weekend is the anniversary of a major gun rights protest that drew about 22,000 people to the state Capitol last year, most of them armed.

The protesters massed last year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is a traditional day for Virginia residents to lobby the state legislature at the beginning of its term. The authorities braced for the possibility of violence, fueled by reports that white supremacists, armed militia groups and other extremists planned to attend the rally. But in the end, the police reported no major incidents or violence and announced only one arrest.

City and state authorities have said they are prepared for any disruptions this year, and officials put the city under a state of emergency. “If you come here and act out, Virginia will be ready,” Gov. Ralph Northam said on Thursday.

State legislators are not convening at the Capitol for this year’s General Assembly session because of coronavirus concerns. Instead, the State Senate is meeting at the Science Museum of Virginia, where there is room to spread out their desks, and the House of Delegates has opted for a fully remote session.

The authorities said their primary focus will be monitoring a “rolling caravan” of Second Amendment supporters who plan to drive through the city on Monday, in a pandemic-era version of last year’s rally. Both years’ events were planned by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights organization.

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