Security measures in place at Arizona State Capitol as Inauguration Day approaches
PHOENIX - As Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris nears, public safety personnel continue to keep a close eye on state capitols across the country, after a bulletin issued by FBI officials warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington ahead of Inauguration Day.
While the FBI reports there are no specific threats against the Arizona Capitol, officials with the agency say there are reports of large protests being planned.
Meanwhile, the State Capitol Building near Downtown Phoenix remains surrounded by chain-link fence. In a statement, officials with the Arizona Department of Public Safety says:
"Out of an abundance of caution, fences have been erected at the State Capitol complex to protect property. Security procedures at the State Capitol were previously enhanced, not for one specific event, but to ensure the safety of the public."
In a statement, officials with Gov. Doug Ducey's office said every precaution is being taken to protect the State Capitol and people inside. The statement read:
"We will take every precaution necessary to protect people and property at Arizona's Capitol. Acts of violence or vandalism directed at a building that is the living symbol of our representative form of government will not be tolerated."
The United States Postal Service has also moved some mailboxes in the area as a precaution.
There are no crowds as of the afternoon of Jan 18, as the traditionally large daily presence of protestors since Election Day in November 2020 has shrunk dramatically since the deadly riot at the Capitol.
In the aftermath of the riot, response teams will be ready to arrest trouble makers.
"My guess is there's law enforcement around the country that will be prepared for any type of, we say, protest, but any type of demonstrations," said Kevin Robinson, a former Assistant Phoenix Police CHief who is now a professor at the Arizona State University. "Any, anything at all that may hinder the normal flow of government."
Dr. Jeff Hynes, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, retired as a Police Commander and a current Professor with the Public Safety Sciences Department at Glendale Community College, says there could a lot of arrests in the coming days so that the deadly riot at the capitol will not be repeated.
"There’s going to be nothing like that," said Dr. Hynes. "They’re going to be ready, deployed, and prepared for anything."
Hynes says he believes one of the issues in D.C. during the day of the riot was a lack of central command when more resources were needed. As Arizona is prepared for any large protests, every agency has pointed to DPS as the central command.
"That’s going to be the difference you see this weekend not only in D.C. but around the country," said Dr. Hynes. "Law enforcement has had weeks to prepare for this, and I’m here to tell you when we prepare for something, we’re ready, and having a unified structure command under one agency -- in this case, DPS -- that’s what law enforcement wants and claps their hands. That’s exactly what we want."
Dr. Hynes says people should not read too much into the few protestors that are present, because crowd sizes can change in a hurry. He says protestors can gather in large numbers in a hurry, especially if the protesters are organized and have countermeasures.
"That countermeasures are you dump a lot of people into a certain area as fast as you can, and then, law enforcement has to deal with it, and that’s what ends up happening is law enforcement doesn’t have enough resources to deal with," said Dr. Hynes. "In this case, law enforcement is ready for anything that happens at the Capitol building here in Arizona."
Frank Gonzalez, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, says since the U.S. is more polarized politically than ever, people might be driven to violence because of politics.
"It shouldn't be surprising that there are a large number of people who are willing to go to extreme methods to protect democracy, because they think that the election was stolen," said Gonzalez. "This was a belief. They did this because of that belief, or it is the case that people were motivated to sort of supersede democracy in the first place, and have their beliefs put in place through potentially violent methods. This sort of idea that the election was stolen is just a convenient excuse for doing that."
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