ARMED pro-Trump protesters headed to capitols across the US amid mounting fears of Inauguration Day mayhem.
* Read our US Politics live blog for the latest news on Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Wednesday’s inauguration
Cities had readied themselves for the threat of violence by erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops.
Posts on far-right online networks had called for huge armed demos on Sunday in particular.
However, some militia groups told followers not to attend over fears the planned events were really police traps.
The protests came as former FBI boss James Comey warned Joe Biden’s inauguration is under threat from “armed, disturbed” people following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Security across the country has now been increased leading up to the big day after the FBI warned of armed protests in all 50 US states.
As demonstrators gathered across the country on Sunday:
- Millions of Americans are eagerly waiting to see if a round of $1,400 stimulus checks will be sent out
- The FBI continues to arrest Capitol rioters including a woman who live-streamed the siege
- President-elect Biden postponed his inauguration rehearsal over security threats
- Biden’s Inauguration Day 2021 crowd will be much smaller than Donald Trump’s due to Covid
Right-wing protesters were seen outside statehouses on Sunday – with some of carrying rifles.
Capitol cities saw small groups gathering in support of gun rights, President Donald Trump and some hoping to avoid a government overreach.
Around 100 people – some armed – gathered in Lansing, Michigan.
However, the number of protesters wasn’t anywhere near the amount of law enforcement officers assigned to the area.
Michigan State Police Lieutenant Brian Oleksyk told the Detroit Free Press: “We want to make this a safe environment for people to come down here to express their constitutional rights.
“We don’t know how many people are going to attend or how many groups or what groups. But we are prepared to protect this building as well as the people that are here.
“We’re not going to tolerate any type of violence, any type of destruction of property, any assault to police officers (or) other people here expressing their constitutional rights, as well as the media.
“That’s criminal behavior, and we will arrest those people for those crimes.”
Armed government protesters were also present in Salt Lake City, Utah, as National Guard members and state troopers stood by near the capitol’s statehouse.
A “We are not the enemy rally” – held by members of the “Boogaloo boys” – was in effect from 9am to 3pm, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The small group had received a permit prior to holding their peaceful demonstration.
Another small group of demonstrators took to Austin, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
According to KVUE, a majority of protesters at Texas’ capitol said they had planned the peaceful protest months ago and were there in support of the Second Amendment.
“All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” protester Ben Hawk told The Associated Press.
The Times spoke with protester Daniel Hunter who explained: “The only reason I’m here is to ensure that no one storms the capitol.
“If they do, I’ll get in front of them and be trampled.”
In Salem, Oregon, around 20 people – donning military-style attire and helmets – stood in the capitol with semiautomatic weapons.
Some were seen with “Disarm the government” signs.
In Concord, New Hampshire, protesters stood near the Daniel Webster statue by statehouse, The Times reported.
There was a police presence in the area to ensure safety, as a handful of masked men – said to be in the boogaloo movement – were seen wearing camouflage and holding AR-15s.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Guy Berry – a 22-year-old Virginia man – near Capitol Hill on Sunday morning.
His arrest came after he was spotted holding a firearm, 37 rounds of ammunition, and three magazines, according to NPR.
Starbucks spokeswoman Jessica Conradson told the Daily News: “Out of an abundance of caution and in keeping partner and customer safety top of mind, local leaders have made the decision to close select stores in the Manhattan area due to expected protests happening today.
“We will resume operations tomorrow.”
Despite the coffee-chain’s protest fears, the New York Police Department has not found any credible threats.
National Guard troops were being activated in the days leading up to Inauguration Day.
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Approximately 19 states, including Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, activated Guardsmen to their capitol cities.
Last week, an intelligence report warned that militia mobs, white supremacists, and QAnon obsessives inspired by the Capitol riots pose a greater terror threat in the US than ISIS this year.
A joint intelligence bulletin by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center also warns brainwashed extremists are ready to “martyr” themselves for the cause.
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