WASHINGTON (KLAS/AP) — The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitols and in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, stoking fears of more bloodshed after last week’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC News.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve,” a spokeswoman for the FBI’s office in Las Vegas said. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. As we do in the normal course of business, we are gathering information to identify any potential threats and are sharing that information with our partners.”
A Nevada Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said their priority is public safety. She did not elaborate about security protocols that may be in place. Both the DPS and FBI said their concentration is on armed protesters who may try to become violent.
“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” the FBI spokeswoman said. “Our focus is not on peaceful protesters, but on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
In a statement last week, the Nevada Police Union, which represents officers protecting the state capitol, governor and Legislature, said its members were not trained or equipped to prevent a mob-style attack like last week’s.
“The proper investment in public safety has been neglected for decades,” Nevada Police Union president Matthew Kaplan said. “Now is the time to modernize the state police, increase officer training, and draw on federal funds to provide more resources to prepare us for future events of unrest and violence.”
The FBI issued at least one other bulletin — they go out to law enforcement nationwide on the topic — before the riots last week. On Dec. 29, it warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures, the second official said.
The riots followed weeks of online calls for violence in Washington in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency.