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FBI warns of armed protests at statehouses, including Vermont

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The FBI is monitoring reports of armed protests at state capitals across the country ahead of Inauguration Day, including at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

State and local police say there aren’t any specific threats aimed at the Vermont Statehouse, lawmakers or the Montpelier community. But in light of the crisis at the Capitol last week, where extreme supporters of President Trump stormed the Capitol, police are keeping a close eye on the situation and are beefing up security.

Following last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by extremist supporters of the president, police have their eyes on several armed protests in state capitals, including Montpelier.

They say it could start this Sunday and stretch through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

“Last Wednesday’s activity in Washington, D.C., changed the lens a little bit for us,” Vt. Capitol Police Chief Matthew Romei said.

Romei says he is not aware of any specific threats as of now. But he says he and other law enforcement are evaluating the situation every day, monitoring social media and following tips.

“We are always looking for what’s going on around us, what’s going on in the media, what the Legislature is taking up as priorities. Those things drive how we work our day to day jobs,” Romei said.

Police don’t share specific plans as to how they’re preparing.

Planning for the armed protests is complicated by the fact that Vermont is also an open-carry state. Police say unless someone points the gun or brandishes it in a threatening way, there’s no problem.

Top Vermont cops say the events in D.C. are making law enforcement across the country reevaluate how they plan for protests.

“A new realm of experience that’s never been seen in modern history, so it’ll necessitate a look at everything,” Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said.

While thousands marched in Washington last week, a smaller, more peaceful group gathered on the Statehouse lawn to have their voices heard.

Republican lawmakers say last week’s riots were a wake-up call for many on the right to abandon debunked allegations of widespread voter fraud.

“I think some people who pursued the election fraud conspiracy theory are perhaps stepping back and rethinking whether they’ve been told the truth and whether or not this is something that should happen in our democracy,” said Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin County.

At the same time, lawmakers are holding the session remotely because of the pandemic, meaning hundreds of people will be out of the Statehouse during the protests. Law enforcement will brief them on the latest in the days to come.

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