Large police presence swarms downtown Raleigh as threats of armed protests persist in state capitals

Monday, January 18, 2021
Authorities swarm downtown Raleigh as threats of protests persist
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As the people's house, the State Capitol must never be off-limits to free speech and expression but always off-limits to terror and insurrection. Such is the tragic irony in this moment in history.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- An internal FBI bulletin obtained by ABC News earlier this week stated that armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitals in addition to the US Capitol.

"This is no longer theory about what could happen," Pierre Thomas, ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent, told ABC11. "They've seen it happen. As a consequence they know there are people like that from across the country and they're treating it as such."

Gov. Cooper deployed around 350 Guard personnel to duty in North Carolina this weekend to "support state and local authorities and protect the well-being of residents, property, and the right to peacefully assemble and protest."

"The bureau and FBI Director Christopher Wray has been very specific," Thomas explained. "They understand free speech, they understand Americans can take positions of all manner. Some of them, even extreme points of view. What they're looking for are people talking about hurting other people and that's when the FBI can and will get involved. Various dark side chat rooms, social media sites have been encouraging people to go to State Capitols to register their anger and frustration at the election being stolen which everyone doesn't know is flat-out lies."

Chopper 11 flew over Raleigh earlier Sunday afternoon and spotted police prepping for any possible downtown demonstrations.

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The governor also sent 200 Guard personnel to assist in the nation's capital to assist with the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.

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The possible protests come just over 10 days since the Capitol was breached on Jan. 6.

In Columbia, South Carolina, a group of about half a dozen people stood on the opposite side of the Statehouse lawn from pro-Trump protesters, with one holding a sign that read: "What are you so PROUD of, BOYS?" It was a reference to the far-right group Proud Boys. The groups did not appear to be interacting.

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In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Stephen Rzonca, who lives a few minutes from the state Capitol, said he came to greet any possible demonstrators, although there were none as of mid-day.

"I'm fundamentally against the potential protesters coming here to de-legitimize the election, and I don't want to be passive in expressing my disapproval of them coming into this city," Rzonca said.

And before demonstrators arrived in Lansing, Michigan, a truck showed up with a sign supporting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the target of a foiled kidnapping plot last year.

At the U.S. Capitol, as federal officers, District of Columbia police and National Guard troops patrolled the area, a lone protester walked the sidewalk wearing a sign that said "Renounce Trump!"

More than a week after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, federal authorities continue to charge people who allegedly participated in the riot, often relying on video taken at the scene to identify suspects.

As of Saturday, approximately 80 cases have been charged in federal court and at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, the Department of Justice said. Additionally, the FBI has opened approximately 200 subject case files and received roughly 140,000 digital media tips from the public.

"The feeling now is the anger level has only heightened and intensified," Thomas added. "You don't show up at the Capitol with scaffolding equipment, pipes, baseball bats, helmets, all those things, without some level of planning.