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Dispatches from MI, GA, OH: States step up security ahead of inauguration

Amid threats of violent protests ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration, states have stepped up security, especially around their respective Capitols. Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio and Television reports from Columbus Ohio, Dave Boucher of the Detroit Free Press joins from Lansing, Michigan, and Rickey Bevington of Georgia Public Broadcasting is in Atlanta, Georgia for more on the security arrangements.

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  • Dave Boucher:

    I'm Dave Boucher, government politics reporter with the Detroit Free Press, I'm here in Lansing, Michigan, outside of the State Capitol. You can see it here behind me.

    Pretty quiet scene here. So far today, there were intermittent groups of people who came by a dozen or so at a time who are openly carrying firearms. Some of them are self-described Boys. The people just here to protest.

    We did talk to one protester who said he was here to protest the protesters and let people know that not all Trump supporters are like those that the nation saw who stormed the U.S. Capitol recently.

    Again, there were threats of violence here and across the country. Lawmakers said that on the advice of law enforcement citing credible threats, they've canceled all of their meetings for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Again, those are the routine normal days when lawmakers are typically here. So we'll see that that might mean other people might come out for Inauguration Day or other days. But supposedly law enforcement says they're ready. They intend to have a increased presence here through February. At least the state police plans to be here then. And so, yeah, as of right now, it will not be business as normal at the Capitol for some time.

    But again, overall today it's been very quiet, a massive law enforcement presence, lots of state police officers, local police officers and National Guard troops. Some of the troops have kind of closed off the block around here.

    The Capitol, you can see obvious military Humvee looking vehicles around. People are walking around in camo. But but again, very, very quiet scene, a cold and snowy scene and not really a protest scene, honestly.

  • Karen Kasler:

    I'm Karen Kasler from Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau at the State House in Columbus.

    There are several dozen protesters here so far, no incidents, no fights, a lot of yelling. There are a lot of people who are armed here, a lot of people saying they don't necessarily represent one side or the other, though. There are some Trump supporters here and also a few Biden supporters as well.

    The security around here has been stepped up. We have Ohio National Guard, about 580 that were activated for all around the state of Ohio. And this building is protected by Ohio State troopers, as well. The Ohio State House is shut down today and through Inauguration Day. There was a protest on January 6th that turned violent in front of the state house with several people beaten. This is loud, but mostly nonviolent. And I think there's a real again, the security is pretty strong here.

  • Rickey Bevingon:

    I'm Rickey Bevington with Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta, where things are quiet and tense.

    I would say, downtown there is an air of tense anticipation. The Georgia State Capitol is heavily guarded today. Dump trucks are blocking major roads that lead to the Capitol. There are armed soldiers with full fatigues and weapons with big Humvees all around the perimeter of the Capitol.

    One of the most powerful images is a bronze statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. outside of Georgia's State Capitol. And it's kind of gazing toward two soldiers that are standing on top of a large military vehicle. And we can only imagine what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be thinking on a day like today.

    The question is, and it's the question on everyone's mind, will we see protesters at all, will we see protesters who are peaceful or will we see potentially, domestic American terrorists, trying to wreak havoc on a house of government? That is what Atlanta is waiting for today.

    After the Black Lives Matter protests of the spring and summer of 2020, the state decided to build a massive eight-foot-fence around the perimeter of the Georgia State Capitol. Construction isn't expected to be finished until May. And so that fence is not is not up and fortifying the Capitol at this time.

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