MADISON – First-floor windows are boarded up at the state Capitol and the Wisconsin National Guard has been activated, but local police say there are “no specific direct threats” as the nation girds for potential unrest ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.
The FBI has warned of possible armed protests at 50 state capitols beginning as early as Saturday.
The alert came after a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
“We’re certainly planning in a very robust way and we’re prepared and are certainly going to have a lot of resources available,” Madison police Acting Chief Vic Wahl told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday.
“We’re not going to make any assumptions or take any chances,” he added. “But certainly, we haven’t seen anything specific, and over the last two months since the election we have not had huge crowds related to that type of protest activity in Madison.”
Gov. Tony Evers on Friday said Wisconsin National Guard members were in place close to the Capitol building as a precautionary measure. He said the Wisconsin State Patrol is working with Capitol Police officers to ensure the building remains secure.
Wahl said his department is still “finalizing plans” for the weekend, which include a unified command post with other agencies. There is one planned protest Sunday by supporters of Jacob Blake, the man who was shot in August by Kenosha police.
Preparations continued at the Capitol, where workers unloaded concrete traffic barriers.
On Thursday, State Capitol Police Chief David Erwin issued a memo to legislators, pointing out that “law enforcement will have an increased presence in the capitol during legislative business” next week.
Erwin said his force is working with others “to monitor threats and ensure the safety of staff, legislators and the public in and around the capitol building. This includes monitoring social media chatter and investigating general and specific threats. At this time, Capitol Police is not aware of specific credible threats to legislators; however, this remains an evolving situation and there continues to be active social media commentary regarding the threat of ongoing unrest.”
Erwin said there is “no credible threat” to lawmakers but urged them to take precautions at home and on social media and to carefully inspect packages they were not expecting to receive.
During a news conference Thursday, both Wahl and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said there were no specific threats to the city.
“I’m hoping that the week will pass without incident,” the mayor said. “But I want Madison residents to know that we are prepared.”