The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned of possible armed protests across the country leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
FBI officials told news agencies they had learned about planned protests that could take place in Washington, D.C. as well as all 50 state capitals.
The warning comes after extremists attacked and occupied the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. The mob – led by supporters of President Donald Trump – arrived as lawmakers were counting electoral votes to make Biden’s win final.
The riot left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Numerous people have been charged in the violence so far. More charges are expected.
The FBI told VOA it is examining evidence suggesting that groups or individuals may be looking to incite violence in connection with the planned handover of presidential power.
The warnings were based on “intelligence” about the protest plans, an FBI statement said.
The FBI is sharing the intelligence information with state, local and federal law enforcement partners to help them prepare for possible threats. "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," the statement said.
Security has been increased at state capitol buildings around the country ahead of next week’s inauguration ceremony in Washington.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Army General Daniel Hokanson, told reporters that his organization was also looking at possible protest threats across the country. He said Guard leaders in every state were cooperating closely with local law enforcement agencies “to provide any support requested.”
In a step to protect the nation’s capital, the National Guard has been authorized to send up to 15,000 troops to Washington. Hokanson said he expected about 10,000 troops to arrive by Saturday to provide security, communications and other support.
In another security measure, the National Park Service said the Washington Monument would be closed to all visitors until January 24 because of threats of violence. The Park Service said other parts of the National Mall and roadways could also be blocked in the coming weeks.
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters he was “not afraid” of taking the oath of office outside the grounds of the Capitol on January 20. But he said it was critically important for the people who took part in last week’s attack to be held accountable for their actions.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it was directing the U.S. Secret Service to start its inauguration security operation this Wednesday, six days earlier than planned. DHS said the decision was made because of the events of the past week and the “evolving” security threats.
Mark Pitcavage is a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. He told The Associated Press that officials in state capitals and other major cities should prepare for the possibility of violent protests next week.
“A lot of people were energized by what happened last week,” Pitcavage said. “State capitals are a natural place where people might want to show up.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press, Reuters and VOA News reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
inauguration – n. the act of officially putting someone into an important position, or the ceremony at which this is done
intelligence – n. secret information about the governments of other countries or the activities of certain groups
focus – v. to center attention on something
authorize – v. to give permission for something to happen
accountable – adj. responsible for one's actions
evolve – v. to develop over time