The nation’s capital was quiet Sunday amid unprecedented security measures as Americans braced for possible violence ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
National Guard troops were monitoring Washington, D.C., as well as many state capitals after law enforcement officials warned of possibly violent protests this week by supporters of President Donald Trump, who falsely claims the election was stolen from him.
Crowds of less than 30 people demonstrated at some boarded-up, cordoned-off statehouses, while the streets in many other capital cities remained empty.
It was just 11 days ago that scores of rioters smashed windows and rampaged through the U.S. Capitol, clashing with overwhelmed Capitol police. The melee was blamed for five deaths, left parts of the hallowed building in ruins and raised questions about law enforcement’s preparation and response.
USA TODAY is monitoring protests and security issues in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S. Keep refreshing this page for updates.
FBI Louisville arrested a Kentucky man accused of using a flagpole to attempt to break into a door to the House of Representatives chambers during the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Chad Barrett Jones, 42, was arrested Saturday and faces multiple charges, according to a tweet from the federal agency.
Among his charges are assault on a federal officer, certain acts during a civil disorder, destruction of government property over $1,000, obstruction of justice, unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
– Emma Austin, Louisville Courier Journal
A New Mexico county commissioner who bragged about taking his guns with him to Washington, D.C., for Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration was arrested Sunday in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Couy Griffin, 47, was charged in Washington with knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, according to a U.S. District Court criminal complaint. Griffin acknowledged he was at the Capitol when it was stormed by insurrectionists but denied participating.
“I didn’t break anything. I didn’t assault anybody. I just walked up to the top of the Capitol. It was a beautiful day,” he said in a video posted to Facebook on Jan. 6.
— Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo (N.M.) Daily News
Despite tensions in state capitals everywhere, the Virginia Citizens Defense League says it plans on having its voice heard Monday, the pro-gun group’s annual Lobby Day at the state Capitol. The group, whose rally drew 20,000 last year, notes that it is legal to carry a firearm for self-defense in Richmond.
“We want everyone to know that we are coming to Richmond so we will be in vehicles decked out with VCDL signs and flags,” the group says on its website. “We will form caravans coming from all four corners of the state, with people joining in all along the way.”
Police posted notices on social media warning that signs have been put up throughout the city to “inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.”
– Laura Peters, Staunton News Leader
The law enforcement presence was heavy amid the new barricades and fencing near California’s Capitol building in Sacramento. A group calling itself “Let Freedom Ring,” headed by a former Republican candidate for Congress, had sought to hold a Sunday rally on the Capitol grounds but was denied a permit.
State lawmakers were told to avoid the area this weekend. Some nearby businesses boarded up their windows. Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said she was being cautious and remained unsure as to how the week would unfold.
“Isn’t it a shame we have to do this?” the Democrat said. “This is not the America we all know.”
– Cassie Dickman, The Stockton Record
The mood was festive at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington. Music was playing on a loudspeaker as a woman waved a Black Lives Matter flag.
Colin and Kaye Cole and their three children made plans in December to travel from Charlotte for the inauguration and were not dissuaded by the Jan. 6 riot. They found the security in Washington both reassuring and eerie. Kaye Cole travels often to the city for work.
“For us to be here right now is very important,” she said. “Charlotte is a very conservative city. To be in the nation’s capital to expose our kids to real life was very important.”
Even if it’s not the city she’s accustomed to visiting.
“It’s like a ghost town,” she said. “I told my kids, ‘This is not typical.’ D.C. is usually very bustling, with different smells, sights and sounds.”
– Gabe Lacques
A woman was arrested after police said she impersonated a law enforcement officer near an inauguration security checkpoint in Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning.
The suspect drove up to a perimeter checkpoint north of the Capitol Building near Union Station, according to a police incident report that does not give her name. She displayed a military police challenge coin and said she was a law enforcement officer and part of the presidential cabinet, according to the report.
A challenge coin is a symbolic item given to members of a military unit as a reward for good work or as a morale booster. They don’t serve as law enforcement credentials. The report notes that she was taken to a hospital for evaluation with no further details.
– Katlin Wedell
Handan Gencogluer, 60, came into D.C. from McLean, Virginia, with a friend to walk around and see the extent of the security on Sunday.
“It’s sad. This is supposed to be a happy time,” she said, noting the parties and celebrations of past inaugurations. Gencogluer wasn’t worried too much about violence: “Now they’re ready, the good guys at least.”
Gencogluer, an immigrant from Istanbul, said she was horrified by the violence during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. She had friends texting her to see if she was safe even though she was out in the suburbs. She described watching the news and feeling like she was watching the TV show “Designated Survivor.”
“I’m an immigrant here and one of the things that brought me here is this is a country of law,” she said. “It’s scary that at the very top it got trampled.”
– Ryan W. Miller
Police in Washington, D.C., have arrested a Virginia man who allegedly tried to pass through a security checkpoint with an “unauthorized” inauguration credential,a handgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, according to officials. Wesley Allen Beeler, 31, of Front Royal, Virginia, was released on his own recognizance after a hearing Saturday. The Associated Press, citing a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that Beeler had a valid credential for inaugural events, though it was not issued by the government.
Beeler told the Washington Post that “it was an honest mistake.” He said he has been working as hired security in downtown Washington and forgot his firearm was in his truck when he left his home in Virginia.
“I pulled up to a checkpoint after getting lost in D.C. because I’m a country boy,” he said. “I showed them the inauguration badge that was given to me.”
President-elect Joe Biden served as a senator from Delaware for more than a quarter-century, but Gov. John Carney is not assuming his state will be immune from pro-Trump protests.
Carney has activated the National Guard to assist state and local law enforcement in keeping the peace if necessary. A 6-foot-tall fence has been constructed around Legislative Hall and traffic has been restricted. Delaware Capitol Police said Capitol buildings “will be secured, and citizens can expect an increased visible law enforcement presence.”
– Nick Siano, Delaware News Journal
The United States Postal Service has temporarily removed blue mail collection boxes in some areas of major cities and state capitols as a security measure in more than a dozen states ahead of the inauguration, USPS said. Boxes also have been removed around the U.S. Capitol.
“It’s part of our normal procedures to keep our employees and customers safe during times of protest or when large crowds are gathered near postal facilities, on postal routes or by mailboxes,” Postal Service spokesperson Kim Frum told USA TODAY.
Go in-depth: Why the National Guard’s absence at Capitol riots shows lack of preparation, distrust after heavy-handed BLM response.
Contributing: Lindsay Schnell, Cara Richardson and Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.