The Maryland State Police is preparing for the possibility of violence at the State House in Annapolis next week, after officials received an FBI bulletin that warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Annapolis is among the state capitals across the country stepping up security in response to threats of armed demonstrations, following last week’s deadly insurrection attempt at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump who sought to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“The Maryland State Police is aware of on-line information regarding the possibility of armed demonstrations in state capitals on January 17th,” State Police spokesman Gregory Shipley said in a statement. “We remain in constant contact with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners regarding any potential events with a criminal nexus in Annapolis.
“If such an event is scheduled, the Maryland State Police will work in support of the Maryland Capitol Police, Annapolis Police Department, Anne Arundel County Police and other public safety agencies to ensure adequate law enforcement resources are available to address any violations of law.”
During a Monday morning news conference, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said “additional security measures” were being taken at the State House in Annapolis but declined to elaborate on the threats that have circulated on social media. He joined officials in Virginia and Washington in asking people not to travel to D.C. for Biden’s inauguration.
A spokesman for the Republican governor confirmed that the state received the FBI bulletin warning of armed protests being planned across the country through Inauguration Day.
The FBI bulletin warned: “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” according to an official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Joy Jiras, a spokeswoman for the FBI Baltimore Field Office, confirmed that the agency had been in touch with Hogan recently about security plans for the Maryland State House, but she declined to elaborate on the plans or the potential threat.
“We are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners,” she said in a statement. “Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
State and local officials in Annapolis said security was being heightened for the coming weeks, and they urged any protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, a Democrat, said he has instructed the city’s Office of Emergency Management, police department and fire department to coordinate with local and regional law enforcement “to ensure public safety.”
House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, said political leaders are working with police to increase security at the State House complex.
The public has largely been barred from entering the State House and the other state government buildings in Annapolis since the coronavirus pandemic reached Maryland in March. During the upcoming legislative session, members of the public can only enter the buildings if they have an appointment with a lawmaker.
There have been periodic peaceful demonstrations this year around the State House and State Circle, primarily held by those pushing for the governor to relax pandemic restrictions.
Republican Del. Nic Kipke, the minority leader in the House of Delegates, urged any members of his party upset by Trump’s loss to Biden to “understand that we are the party of law and order.”
“There’s a right way to express political opinions and a wrong way,” said Kipke, who represents Anne Arundel County. “The right way is on Election Day and through the political process.”
He added: “The violence that happened in Washington, D.C. is horrific, and all Republicans need to condemn it.”
The Transportation Security Administration also announced Monday that there will be enhanced security screenings and technology at the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ahead of the inauguration.
Following Wednesday’s takeover of the U.S. Capitol, Maryland sent 200 state troopers and 500 members of the Maryland National Guard to the District of Columbia.
Hogan said Maryland may send “several hundred more Guard members” to provide security support ahead of the presidential inauguration next Wednesday.
The FBI’s Baltimore Field Office also will be sending agents to D.C. to assist with security for the inauguration, Jiras confirmed.
The Maryland National Guard and police departments typically provide security assistance during presidential inaugurations in Washington, Hogan said, but “this is obviously a much more heightened situation.”
Five people, including one Capitol Police officer, died in Wednesday’s riot.
Last week, Hogan described how he was ready to send Maryland Guard members to the U.S. Capitol, only to be slowed by the reluctance of federal officials to call in support from nearby states.
After a Monday afternoon call with Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats, Hogan joined them in urging people to watch Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration from home, while promising to provide security forces to ensure a smooth transition of power.
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“Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, including last week’s violent insurrection as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, D.C. and to instead participate virtually,” the officials said in a joint statement.
“In this very trying time, January 6 was a dark moment for our nation,” they said. “But we know that we will get through this period because American ideals are stronger than one extreme ideology. Together, we will overcome extremism and get back to the work of our residents.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Bryn Stole and McKenna Oxenden and The Associated Press contributed to this article.