Illinois National Guard

Illinois National Guard Says Public ‘Should Feel Safe' Ahead of Inauguration This Week

The Illinois National Guard delivered a security update in Springfield Saturday, telling residents they should "feel safe" ahead of the presidential inauguration this week.

Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, Commander of the Illinois National Guard, held a press conference Saturday, explaining the role of the state's guardsmen and women in preparation for the inauguration.

Neely said the public "should feel safe" already, as the National Guard will be patrolling the Illinois capitol should any protests or events take place leading up to the presidential inauguration Wednesday.

Neely added that the role of the National Guard is to support law enforcement should demonstrations occur in coming days, rather than engage directly with citizens. However, he said the guardsmen and woman are prepared to do so, if necessary.

Approximately 300 Illinois National Guard officers have additionally been deployed to Washington, D.C, according to Neely, to assist in the federal security efforts behind Wednesday's historic event.

As Gov. J.B. Pritzker noted this week, Neely added that the National Guard also functions to support the Illinois Department of Public Health when assisting with the state's coronavirus vaccination efforts.

By February, the National Guard hopes to have at least 400 service members helping with vaccinations across Illinois, according to Neely.

Earlier this week, Pritzker activated 250 troops following warnings from the FBI of potential threats to state capitols leading up to the presidential inauguration.

“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.”

Though officials expected a "Save Our State" rally Saturday at around 11 a.m., reportedly no protesters showed up to the Springfield Capitol building.

Windows at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield were seen being boarded up Friday as authorities prepared for potential events.

"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."

The department said it is "taking every measure available" to secure the Capitol complex and that it temporarily affixed plywood over certain windows "out of an abundance of caution."

Earlier this week, Illinois State Police said they were "tracking possible events at the Illinois Capitol building this weekend" following a memo from the FBI warning law enforcement agencies across the country of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols.

"The ISP remain vigilant in our mission to protect the safety  of those engaged in the process of democracy, constitutional rights and public institutions," ISP said in a statement. "The ISP and local law enforcement will have all available resources at our disposal to respond to threats identified through federal, state and local intelligence."

The FBI memo reported the protests could begin as early as Jan. 16, and says an armed group has threatened to travel to Washington, D.C., the same day 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 the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, but that doesn’t mean that law enforcement agencies expect violent mass protests or confrontations in every state, NBC News reported.

"Again, armed protesters, they're encouraging so so we're going to be prepared," Pritzker said a news conference Friday. "And that's why I want to make sure that we have got the National Guard out there. We've got state police, local police, as well as federal coordination. So I feel you know, good about the plan that we've got..."

Chicago officials have also announced security preparations, activating the city's emergency operations center for the presidential inauguration next week.

Chicago's Office of Emergency Management said the operations center will be activated Wednesday "in order to coordinate the city’s public safety response to the events surrounding the presidential inauguration, as needed."

"OEMC along with the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department and the city’s infrastructure departments are prepared to take protective action and will continue to monitor the situation daily," OEMC said in a statement. "Any adjustments will be made as warranted."

Currently, officials said they are not aware of "any actionable activity being planned in Chicago."

"We anticipate the City of Chicago will remain peaceful. However, OEMC is prepared to mobilize assets to ensure the safety of residents, neighborhood commercial corridors and critical businesses, in the event of any incidents," OEMC said.

The department urged residents to call 911 and report any suspicious activity.

Earlier this week, Pritzker also activated approximately 200 members of the Illinois National Guard to help provide support during next week’s presidential inauguration in Washington. On Friday, he activated 100 more.

The Chicago Police Department also plans to send 40 officers to Washington, D.C., to assist with inauguration security.

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