Law enforcement officials far surpassed protesters in the state metropolitan area on Sunday, as few Trump supporters believe the president’s false claim that he won the 2020 election turned out to be what the authorities feared could be violent demonstrations.
More than a dozen states activated National Guard troops to help secure their capital buildings following an FBI warning of armed demonstrations, with right-wing extremists encouraged by the deadly attack on the US capital in Washington on January 6.
Security officials had seen Sunday as the first major flash point, as that was when the anti-government “boogaloo” movement planned several weeks ago to hold meetings in all 50 states.
But late Sunday afternoon, only a handful of protesters had taken to the streets along with much larger crowds of law enforcement officials and media personnel.
“It was a non-incident today and we’re glad it was,” said Troy Thompson, a spokesman for the Department of General Services, the agency that protects the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.
On Sunday afternoon, police opened streets around the building that had been blocked in anticipation of larger crowds.
Only a few Trump supporters had turned up, including Alex, a 34-year-old plasterer from Hershey, Pennsylvania, who said he had been at the siege of the US capital on January 6 but did not storm the building. He refused to give his last name.
Wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “Fraud 2020,” he said he thought the November presidential election was stolen and wanted to show his support for Trump. He noted the lack of protesters in the Pennsylvania capital on Sunday.
“Nothing is happening,” he said.
A similarly small group of about a dozen protesters, some armed with rifles, stood outside Michigan’s capital in Lansing on Sunday afternoon. They wore fatigue pants, a tactical vest and a blue Hawaiian shirt, a trademark of the anti-government boogaloo movement.
“I’m not here to be violent and I hope no one shows up to be violent,” said a man standing on the lawn in front of the capital. The man, who refused to give his name, wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and waved the “Don’t tread on me” flag.
Early in the evening, the capital of Lansing was deserted.
Preparing for violence
The nationwide security follow-up followed the attack on the US capital in Washington by a mix of extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom demanded that Vice President Mike Pence die as he presided over the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
The FBI and other federal agencies have warned of the potential for future violence until Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, as white supremacists and other extremists try to exploit frustration among Trump supporters who have bought into his falsehood about election fraud.
Tens of thousands of security guards from the National Guard and law enforcement agencies have come down to Washington DC to strengthen security ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony.
On Sunday, the Capitol Police in Washington said they had arrested a woman at a security checkpoint on Saturday for falsely posing as a police officer after she “presented what was identified as a military challenge coin and stated she was a law enforcement officer.”
The woman underwent a psychiatric evaluation before being transported to the Central Cell Block, police said in a statement.
Downtown Washington was a ghost town on Sunday. Camouflage-protective soldiers manned checkpoints over the city center, which was closed to traffic with large military vehicles deployed to block streets.
It was not clear if the FBI alert and increased security presence around the country could have led some protesters to cancel plans to go to their state capitals.
Following the January 6 violence in Washington, some militia members said they would not take part in a long-planned demonstration in Virginia on Monday, in which authorities were concerned about the risk of violence as several groups converged on the state capital, Richmond.
The streets around Richmond State House were lined with barricades on Sunday afternoon, but apart from a few police officers and journalists, the area was deserted.
Some militias and extremist groups urged supporters to stay home for the weekend, citing increased security or the risk that the planned incidents were traps for law enforcement.
Bob Gardner, leader of the Pennsylvania Lightfoot Militia, said his group had no plans to be in Harrisburg this weekend.
“We have our own communities to worry about,” Gardner said earlier this week. “We do not engage in politics.”