After Mob Attack on U.S. Capitol, State Governments Take Precautions

Protesters stand outside the Governor's Mansion after getting through a perimeter fence, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

Protesters stand outside the Governor's Mansion after getting through a perimeter fence, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

 

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Washington's governor announced plans for a heavy law enforcement presence at the state Capitol next week. Other states have taken extra security measures as well.

Some statehouses closed to the public while officials elsewhere urged state employees to work from home this week in the aftermath of a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol by President Trump’s supporters

Authorities in several states sought to restrict public access or to reduce the number of employees who worked in state buildings as a precaution following the turmoil in D.C. and demonstrations in state capitals that were less volatile.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that he'd authorized up to 750 members of the state's National Guard and a "large number" of state patrol troopers to be on hand with regular security staff at the Capitol in Olympia when the state's 2021 legislative session begins next week.

Plans are for the session to take place remotely, but lawmakers will be at the Capitol on Monday. The governor also said certain areas around the Capitol would only be open to legislators and staff and would be cordoned off with fencing and guarded by security personnel.

Inslee announced the measures after a group of demonstrators, on the same day of the U.S. Capitol attack, got through a gate and entered the grounds around the governor's mansion, before leaving the area after an encounter with police.

"The actions we saw in both Washington, D.C. and Olympia earlier this week were completely unacceptable and will not be repeated in our state capital again," he said. “As legislators begin their work," he added, "we must do whatever we can to ensure that they can do that work without fear, intimidation or harassment."

On the other side of the country, the Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg closed Thursday, with employees told to work from home.

“We just thought, look, a lot of our folks are working from home anyway, and maybe it would just be safe, not knowing what the night (overnight hours) was going to hold down in Washington, to have all of our employees work from home today,” Dave Reddecliffe, the chief clerk of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, told Penn Live.

In Arizona, state employees were asked to work from home on Thursday “out of an abundance of caution,” said Bart Graves, spokesman for the state’s Department of Public Safety. Remote work directives were left to the discretion of state agency directors on Friday, he said.

Michigan’s state capitol was closed for a more immediate reason: a bomb threat. Someone called a control operator at Michigan’s Capitol complex Thursday morning and indicated that everyone needed to evacuate because the building was going to explode.

The bomb threat turned out to be a hoax. But the state Attorney General’s Office on Friday announced that it had arrested and charged Michael Varrone, 48, with making the threat. Authorities said Varrone was also facing charges for a series of death threats made in December to a Michigan House of Representatives member.

Throngs of President Trump’s supporters breached security and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to protest his loss of the presidential election. Washington, D.C. officials instituted a curfew to tamp down on the violence.

The Justice Department said on Friday that at least 13 people had been charged in federal court for crimes related to the Capitol riot.

Many statehouses have limited or cut off access to the public amid the coronavirus outbreak. But in the wake of Wednesday’s riots at the U.S. Capitol, some state officials said they intend to examine the security of their capitol buildings.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statement Friday saying officials “are aware of the need to ensure the safety of this building and those who work within it.”

This article was updated with information about Washington state.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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