State Watch

State capitals come under siege by pro-Trump mobs

Julia Nikhinson

Protests at state capitals across the country turned threatening Wednesday as demonstrators entered legislative buildings and police escorted elected officials from their offices in response to violent threats.

The protests against the November presidential election results, fueled in large part by unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that were repeated often by President Trump and the White House, coincided with mob violence in the nation’s capital where Trump supporters overran U.S. Capitol Police and officers drew their firearms to protect lawmakers in the House and Senate.

In state capitals, police moved to protect elected officials who were threatened by pro-Trump mobs.

Staffers at the Utah state Capitol were ordered to evacuate the building, wrote Bryan Schott, who covers the legislature for the Salt Lake Tribune. In Georgia, police escorted Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to safety as militia members gathered outside the Capitol building in Atlanta.

In Olympia, the perimeter of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) mansion was breached by a large group of pro-Trump protesters. Inslee was home at the time, according to public radio reporter Austin Jenkins. The governor and his wife have been moved to a safe location.

Protesters at a rally in Salem burned Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) in effigy, as city police urged people to avoid the area around the statehouse. Fistfights broke out in Sacramento, where police struggled to contain clashes between dueling groups of demonstrators.

In Kansas, state police monitored a group of protesters who entered the statehouse in Topeka. The state Highway Patrol said they had no plans to increase security, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. The protesters later dispersed without incident.

Peaceful protests urging the overthrow of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in November gathered in Austin, Texas. Protests were calm and controlled in Little Rock, Ark., though some Trump supporters showed up with automatic firearms and riot shields.

The protests underscored the rise of threatening confrontations that have taken place around state capital buildings in the past year, and especially in the midst of lockdowns caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

A group of armed militia members was arrested last year after the FBI uncovered a plot to arrest and hold hostage Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Protesters repeatedly stormed the state capital in Lansing, which was closed to the public when presidential electors met to cast ballots last month because of “credible threats of violence.”

Law enforcement officials have investigated threats against a state senator from Detroit, the Los Angeles County district attorney and a Washington, D.C., council member in recent months. Public officials in Idaho, Denver and Washington state have all been harassed in recent months.

Wednesday’s protests will be unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn Biden’s victory, which Congress is set to ratify Wednesday. Biden addressed the violent mob in remarks from Wilmington, Del.

“What we are seeing is a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent. It is disorder. It is chaos. It borders on sedition,” Biden said. “To storm the Capitol, to smash windows, to occupy offices, and to threaten the safety of duly elected officials is not protest, it is insurrection.”

Updated at 7:22 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Gretchen Whitmer Jay Inslee Joe Biden Kate Brown

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