Heightened security measures remained in place at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield on Monday after a weekend that saw few protests or incidents despite threats of action ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration this week.
The FBI sent a memo to law enforcement agencies across the country warning of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols that could begin as early as Jan. 16. The memo also said an armed group threatened to travel to Washington, D.C., and stage an uprising if Congress removes President Donald Trump from office, according to a senior law enforcement official.
The memo discusses possible threats discussed by online actors for Jan. 16 through Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, but that doesn’t mean that law enforcement agencies expect violent mass protests or confrontations in every state, NBC News reported. The FBI issued the memo just days after Trump supporters sieged the U.S. Capitol in a deadly riot on Jan. 6 as Congress was in the process of certifying the electoral vote count.
In response to the FBI memo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday activated 250 National Guard troops to "bolster security of state buildings in downtown Springfield."
“Following the violent siege at our nation’s capitol and reports from federal law enforcement on threats to state capitals, I am bringing all resources to bear to protect our residents and our democratic process,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Our exemplary members of the Illinois National Guard will be working closely with our State Police as well as local and federal authorities to keep our capital city safe. We will continue to be fully transparent with the public on any new information and the steps we are taking to respond.”
"Illinois Secretary of State Capitol Police, along with other law enforcement agencies, are fully aware of possible marches on state capitols," the Illinois Secretary of State’s office said in a statement. "The Illinois Secretary of State Capitol Police remain vigilant to ensure the Illinois Capitol Complex is safe and secure."
Crews boarded up the Illinois Capitol's windows on Friday in anticipation of any possible events, though few protesters showed up over the weekend. Still, many businesses in the area stayed closed, while a church that has stood on the corner near the Capitol since 1888 moved its services out of an abundance of caution. Troops manned roadblocks on all four corners surrounding the Capitol building and a drone was spotted in the air keeping surveillance overhead.
Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, Commander of the Illinois National Guard, said during a news conference Saturday that the public "should feel safe" and that the troops will continue to patrol the area. He noted that the role of the National Guard is to support law enforcement should demonstrations occur in coming days, rather than engage directly with citizens, but that those on duty were prepared to do so if necessary.
Earlier in the week, Pritzker also activated about 200 members of the Illinois National Guard to support the inauguration in Washington, D.C. Then on Friday, at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, he activated an additional 100 members who headed to the nation's capital.
In Washington, D.C., the National Mall and landmarks are off limits to the public, while concrete barricades and metal fencing can be seen at the site of the inauguration. Approximately 15,000 troops were in Washington over the weekend with 10,000 more on the way.
The FBI is vetting all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming to the capital for the inauguration as U.S. defense officials said they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in the event.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday that officials were conscious of the potential threat, warning commanders to be on the lookout for any problems, but that he and other leaders had not seen evidence of any threats thus far.
Biden is set to be inaugurated in a ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, and while the exact timing of the event has not yet been announced, the president-elect officially becomes president at noon on Inauguration Day per the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.