California Gov. Gavin Newsom has authorized 1,000 National Guard troops to shield the Capitol and critical infrastructure ahead of anticipated demonstrations and potential violence leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next Wednesday.
“We’re treating this very seriously and deploying significant resources to protect public safety, critical infrastructure and First Amendment rights,” Newsom said in a video announcement Thursday. “But let me be clear: There will be no tolerance for violence.”
Downtown Sacramento has seen weekly demonstrations since the general election, nearly all of which have led to violence between far-right groups like the Proud Boys and left-wing counter-protesters. There has been heightened concern for violence following the insurrection and breach of the U.S. Capitol last week by Trump supporters, as lawmakers inside worked to certify the presidential election results.
The governor previously activated the National Guard to quell unrest during summer protests over racial injustice.
Newsom’s announcement follows other moves Thursday to protect the Capitol. A 6-foot fence was placed around the building in the morning, and multiple pending permit requests for demonstrations in the coming days no longer appear on the Capitol’s events calendar, indicating they were denied by CHP or pulled by organizers.
Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a joint statement Wednesday, stating that they're working “in close cooperation to ensure the safety of everyone who works in or visits the Capitol.”
“While we cannot address specific security steps, we are in constant communication with the CHP, Senate and Assembly Sergeants, and local law enforcement to keep the people’s house safe,” the statement read.
Trump supporters have gathered on the streets outside the Capitol nearly every week since the election, advancing the unfounded conspiracy theory that Democrats stole the election from the president. The Capitol grounds have been secured by barricades and CHP officers, blocking protesters from entering the premises. Local law enforcement has formed a perimeter around demonstrations next to the Capitol in an attempt to stop violent clashes, with limited success.
The demonstrations have remained largely peaceful, but members of the Proud Boys and other far-right militia groups routinely leave the rally area to confront antifa counter-protesters dressed in black. The two sides have brawled in the streets, and at times brandished weapons, including bear mace and batons.
Antifa counter-protesters have also violently confronted lone Trump supporters and at least one bystander.
Local law enforcement and city leaders have struggled to address the recurring violence, claiming they’re trying to balance free speech with accountability.
FBI director Christopher Wray says the bureau is monitoring “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter” ahead of the inauguration next week.
Wray says law enforcement has made more than 100 arrests in connection to the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, according to Politico.
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