With a FBI advisory warning of potential armed protests at all 50 state capitols in the coming days, state law enforcement officials said Tuesday they are on alert.
In a statement Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security stated it will be working with State Police, Capitol Police and in coordination with other state and federal authorities to be vigilant in the event of protests on the Capitol grounds.
The FBI advisory states it has evidence planning is underway for armed protests at all 50 state capitols, likely to occur between Saturday through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, or beyond.
On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice said it is important for law enforcement to be aware and diligent, and said he is hoping that West Virginians will use good judgment in response to calls for protests.
“We’ve got to be alert and be on guard, and I’m sure there will be heightened alerts, but our people are good,” he said.
Justice will be sworn in for his second four-year term shortly after midnight on Monday, but he announced Jan. 11 that the inauguration ceremonies, traditionally held on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in January, this year will take place on Friday, Jan. 22.
Justice said the inauguration will be outdoors, as per tradition, with social distancing enforced.
Traditionally held on the south steps of the Capitol, Justice’s inauguration will be staged on the north steps, because of ongoing renovations to the Capitol’s south plaza.
There have been exceptions. Cecil Underwood’s inauguration in 1997 was on the north steps, as was Joe Manchin’s second inauguration in 2009.
Regarding Capitol security, the statement from Homeland Security notes the Capitol building remains closed to the public because of COVID-19 protocols.
Admission to the Capitol is limited to state employees, with members of the general public admitted only to attend scheduled meetings or by appointment for specific business within Capitol offices.
All visitors are screened through two access points, which include metal detectors and temperature checks.
The statement also notes state law prohibits firearms or other deadly weapons on the Capitol grounds or in Capitol complex buildings.
Legislation passed in 2019 does permit firearms in vehicles parked at the Capitol complex, so long as the vehicle is locked and the weapon is out of view.