Louisiana State Capitol braces for possible demonstrations following FBI warning

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana troopers plan to bolster State Capitol security in the coming days, as a federal bulletin claims last Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol may resurge at state legislative halls nationwide.

An FBI memo leaked Monday warns that “armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols” through at least Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is slated to take his oath of office. The threats stem from far-right extremist groups who insist that outgoing President Donald Trump won the November election and should stay in office.

State and federal agencies confirmed preparations for protests planned at Louisiana’s seat-of-government. In a statement, Louisiana State Police voiced plans to “work closely with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to coordinate security protocols… to protect the rights of our citizens to hold a peaceful gathering.”

“The FBI is aware of the armed call to action protest scheduled at the Louisiana State Capitol,” FBI New Orleans spokeswoman Alicia Irmscher said Tuesday. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity. Destruction and rioting of city, state and federal property will not be tolerated.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards asserted his quest for calm at a news conference Tuesday.

“We all should support one another’s rights to assemble, but obviously it is critical that they do it in a way that is nonviolent and in accord with the law,” Edwards told reporters. “We expect that’s what’s going to happen here.”

The multiple pro-Trump demonstrations outside Louisiana’s statehouse since the election have been peaceful so far. Protesters most recently gathered by the dozens this past weekend. They also staged a nonviolent rally there Wednesday afternoon, as pro-Trump riots spilled into the U.S. Capitol.

A state police spokesperson declined to elaborate on the agency’s plan for handling future protests, citing security concerns.

“In the background, I would virtually guarantee that every one of them are heeding the information they have, making the best preparations to keep their facilities for which they’re responsible and the people around them secure and safe,” said Rob Walker, executive director of the D.C.-based Homeland Security Experts Group — and a St. Tammany Parish native. “I think the events of last week demonstrated that we are in uncharted territories.”

Other state capitols are heeding the FBI’s warning as well. Wisconsin’s governor has activated his state’s National Guard to aid police in Madison, where state workers have boarded up their windows. And in Michigan, lawmakers voted last week to ban the open carry of guns inside their statehouse in Lansing.

Back in Louisiana — where civilians cannot legally bring guns inside the State Capitol — Edwards ended his news conference Tuesday with a direct appeal to the state’s aspiring demonstrators.

“We’ll protect your right to do it, but at the same time, we’re asking you to make sure you follow the law,” he said, noting the nearly 8,000 COVID-19-related deaths in Louisiana so far. “We’ve already lost so much.”

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