A series of expected — and, reportedly, potentially violent — protests that “turned statehouses into citadels” last week failed to materialize, despite repeated warnings from the FBI that President Donald Trump’s supporters were looking to continue to demonstrate against certifying November’s presidential election results.
The New York Times reports that “far-right groups stayed away from protests” planned for Sunday, even though “state capitols across the nation [were] ringed by barricades,” and state-level law enforcement agencies patrolled capitol buildings in military-style vehicles, ready for demonstrations similar to the one that descended into violence on January 6th at the United States Capitol.
“The large presence of troops and police officers across the country came after warnings from the F.B.I. that armed protests were planned in all 50 capitals and following online chatter promising demonstrations or worse in the days leading up to Wednesday’s inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president,” the outlet noted. “The nation’s militarized streets on Sunday were a remarkable spectacle as police and National Guard officers faced off with promised right-wing protests that, at least on Sunday, were reduced to a whimper. Protesters in some states could be counted on one hand.”
Officials did note that there were a handful of protesters in places like Michigan, where groups who believed Trump’s claims of widespread vote fraud had challenged seating the state’s official Electoral College voters and even offered up a slate of their own electors. But in places like Washington, D.C., where much of the city’s downtown is heavily fortified, only anti-Trump protesters appeared, some with Black Lives Matter flags and tee shirts.
“Anti-Trump protesters in the city’s Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House said they were yelled at by Trump supporters holding ‘Stop the Steal’ signs on Saturday, but that they had not reappeared Sunday,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Nadine Seiler, 55, wearing a ‘Maga Klux Klan/ T-shirt and waving a Black Lives Matter flag, said she was afraid of being targeted but still planned to protest daily until the inauguration. Police patrolled nearby, but that didn’t make her feel any safer, she said, since she’s long been critical of local police.”
Notably, Michigan’s protesters were clear, when confronted by reporters, that they had no intention of being violent. Similar small protests in places like Colorado and Pennsylvania, quickly fizzled. In Maryland, the LA Times notes, there was a large PETA rally, but no pro-Trump demonstrations.
Some states, like Illinois, boarded up their state houses, though there was no indication any rally, for or against the president, was planned.
The FBI is warning states that politically motivated violence is a possibility in the lead up to Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, and Washington, D.C., is in almost full lockdown. Streets are closed, individuals have been instructed to work from home, and the Pentagon has activated around 25,000 National Guard troops to patrol inside what residents are calling the “green zone,” around the U.S. Capitol.