U.S. capitals on edge for armed protests as Trump presidency nears end
By Nathan Layne (Reuters) - Washington, D.C., was locked down and U.S. law enforcement officials geared up for pro-Trump marches in all 50 state capitals this weekend, erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops to try to prevent the kind of violent attack that rattled the nation on Jan. 6
By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) - Washington, D.C., was locked down and U.S. law enforcement officials geared up for pro-Trump marches in all 50 state capitals this weekend, erecting barriers and deploying thousands of National Guard troops to try to prevent the kind of violent attack that rattled the nation on Jan. 6.
The FBI warned police agencies of possible armed protests outside all 50 state capitol buildings starting Saturday through President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, fueled by supporters of President Donald Trump who believe his false claims of electoral fraud.
Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Washington were among states that activated their National Guards to strengthen security. Texas closed its Capitol through Inauguration Day.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said in a statement late Friday that intelligence indicated "violent extremists" may seek to exploit planned armed protests in Austin to "conduct criminal acts."
The scramble followed the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington by a mix of extremists and Trump supporters, some of whom planned to kidnap members of Congress and called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence as he presided over the certification of Biden's victory in November's election.
Law enforcement officials have trained much of their focus on Sunday, when the anti-government "boogaloo" movement flagged plans to hold rallies in all 50 states.
In Michigan a fence was erected around the Capitol in Lansing and troopers were mobilized from across the state to bolster security. The legislature canceled meetings next week, citing concern over credible threats.
"We are prepared for the worst but we remain hopeful that those who choose to demonstrate at our Capitol do so peacefully," Michigan State Police Director Joe Gasper told a news conference on Friday.
The perception that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a success could embolden domestic extremists motivated by anti-government, racial and partisan grievances, spurring them to further violence, according to a government intelligence bulletin dated Wednesday that was first reported by Yahoo News.
The Joint Intelligence Bulletin, produced by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Counterterrorism Center, further warned that "false narratives" about electoral fraud would serve as an ongoing catalyst for extremist groups.
Thousands of armed National Guard troops were in the streets in Washington in an unprecedented show of force after the assault on the U.S. Capitol. Bridges into the city were to be closed, along with dozens of roadways. The National Mall and other iconic U.S. landmarks were blocked off into next week.
Experts say that the capitals of battleground states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona are among those at most risk of violence. But even states not seen as likely flashpoints are taking precautions.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said on Friday that while his state had not received any specific threats he was beefing up security around the Capitol in Springfield, including adding about 250 state National Guard troops.
The alarm extended beyond legislatures. The United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination of more than 4,900 churches, warned its 800,000 members there were reports "liberal" churches could be attacked in the coming week.
Suzanne Spaulding, a former undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said authorities disclosing enhanced security measures can be an effective deterrent.
"One of the ways you can potentially de-escalate a problem is with a strong security posture," said Spaulding, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "You try to deter people from trying anything."
Following the Jan. 6 violence in Washington, some militia members said they would not attend a long-planned pro-gun demonstration on the holiday Monday in Virginia, where authorities were worried about the risk of violence as multiple groups converged on the state capital, Richmond.
Others told the Washington Post they wanted the protest organized in response to new state gun rules to be peaceful. Some militias in other parts of the country have told followers to stay home this weekend, citing the increased security or the risk that the planned events were law enforcement traps.
Even so, Michael Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center said he has not been this worried about the potential for violence in a long time. Among other factors, he said the perceived censorship of conservative voices by technology companies such as Twitter has served to meld right-wing extremists and run-of-the-mill Republicans into a common cause.
"It has provided a kind of unifying grievance between groups that had no connection with one another before," Hayden said.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Patricia Zengerle in McLean, Virginia; Writing by Nathan Layne and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.