Law enforcement officials battened down statehouses across the country on Sunday in anticipation of potentially violent protests by Trump supporters who believe the baseless claim that electoral fraud robbed the president of a second term.
More than a dozen states have activated National Guard troops to help secure their capitol buildings following an FBI warning of armed protests, with right-wing extremists emboldened by the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.
Security officials have eyed Sunday as the first major flashpoint, as that is when the anti-government “boogaloo” movement made plans weeks ago to hold rallies in all 50 states.
Capitals in battleground states, where Trump has directed his accusations of voter fraud, were on especially high alert.
But by midday, only a few demonstrators had taken to the streets alongside hundreds of law enforcement officers and media personnel.
Four protesters with long rifles stood outside Michigan’s capitol in Lansing on Sunday, one wearing fatigue pants, a brown tactical vest and a blue Hawaiian shirt and another wearing a Trump t-shirt and fatigue pants as he held a “Don’t tread on me” flag.
One of them was Duncan Lemp, a cook from Michigan who is involved with the boogaloo boys movement and was wearing an American flag face mask. He said he believed the election was fraudulent, but he had not come on Sunday to start a fight. Instead, he said he wanted to encourage a peaceful, unified anti-government stance and to stand up for his right to bear arms.
“The idea of today, we’ve been planning this rally since long before the 6th, long before the 6th. The 6th changed everything for us. It made us really worried about coming out here. Obviously you see the fences,” Lemp said. “They were really worried–the FBI stopped by my work three days ago to talk to me about coming out here. And it changed a lot. We were coming out here for unity, trying to get Antifa, Proud Boys, BLM, the militias all together just to have a conversation. We don’t have to come out and fight everytime we come out. We can just talk.”
Lemp’s fellow Boogaloo member Timothy Teagan, who said he was neither for President-elect Joe Biden or President Trump, said it was important to show up to disprove reports that their intention was violence.
Nearby, crews had blocked off streets and office buildings in Lansing had boarded up their windows in anticipation of potential violence.
In addition to increasing police presence, some states, including Pennsylvania, Texas and Kentucky, have taken the further step of closing their capitol grounds to the public.
It is just days until Wednesday’s Inauguration Day, when Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as president amid extraordinary security efforts in Washington, D.C.
The nationwide security scramble followed the attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by a mix of extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Biden’s election victory.
(Production: Nathan Frandino)