After a calm Sunday at Pa. Capitol, the police will maintain their presence this week
HARRISBURG – Things were quiet at the State Capitol until mid-afternoon on Sunday, and for Harrisburg Police, that’s certainly a good thing.
But they are not going to let their guard down.
“We will maintain our sense of vigilance here. The day is not over yet, ”said Harrisburg Deputy Police Chief Deric Moody. “So far we like what we see.”
U.S. state capitals have stepped up security after the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6. FBI warned there were calls for armed protests in state capitals and Washington, DC, Sunday and before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday.
It was believed that an armed group of protesters would show up around noon, but for much of the afternoon the steps and streets of the Capitol were filled only with journalists, photographers and cameramen.
Until there, there was no sign of armed protesters.
A large contingent of law enforcement from the Harrisburg Police Department, Capitol Police, Pennsylvania State Police, and Pennsylvania National Guard spent the day guarding the Capitol complex and close the streets around it, and will likely continue to do so for the next few days.
Orange barricades blocked access to much of the Capitol as police stood firm, some dressed in tactical armor and helmets while others carried shields and wooden batons.
Harrisburg Police blocked the streets leading to the Capitol as Pennsylvania State Police soldiers patrolled the area on horseback and the National Guard worked alongside the police, bolstering their ranks.
“We were prepared for the worst-case scenario and, as the saying goes, ‘you plan for the worst and you pray for the best,” ”Moody said. “Right now we are seeing what we hoped to see. “
Harrisburg saw many protests in 2020. Shortly after the George Floyd’s death led to violence, but Moody said after the police adjustment, all of these were peaceful and he hopes this trend will continue.
Although there were no signs of armed protesters on Sunday, a handful of President Donald Trump’s supporters briefly introduced themselves. One of them spoke into a megaphone for a few minutes, answering a few questions from reporters. Another man wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” face cover said he supported this president and was just here on Sunday to exercise his right as a Pennsylvanian to take advantage of the Capitol complex.
Activist Gene Stilp, known for burning Trump and Confederate flags, was also in attendance and surrounded by reporters and photographers. Stilp did not burn a flag, but did bring with him a cutout cardboard “statue” of Trump, which he knocked over in a symbolic gesture.
“In dictatorships around the world, when a dictator falls and democracy is restored, statues of dictators fall,” he said. “We removed his statue today, symbolically, confining him to the trash of history.”
Overall, on Sunday afternoon, Moody said he was satisfied, but quickly noted that the week was not over yet and that police would remain on alert.
“We see it as one day at a time,” he said. “We planned this, and it’s the best scenario so far.”
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He said the plan was to maintain an increased police presence during at least the inauguration to keep the Capitol and the city safe.
“People have the right to come and demonstrate peacefully. People have a right to be safe when they come to do these things, ”he said. “And that’s what the plan is today, and that will be the plan for the future.”
The police presence was increased following the riot at the United States Capitol on January 6 which put them on high alert.
This incident left five people dead, including a policeman and a far-right protester who backed Trump’s baseless claims that voter fraud cost him the November election. According to the Associated Press, more than 125 people have been arrested so far on charges related to the violent insurgency.
Armed protests were expected in other State capitals across the country today but few showed up.