ST. PAUL — Minnesota law enforcement agencies said they haven't found "credible threats" of violence at the state Capitol heading into a weekend of planned protests but have called on groups around the state to prepare for altercations ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington on Friday, Jan. 15, said that despite earlier reports about the state Capitol becoming a target of potential far-right violence, state and federal officials had not found credible threats in recent days.
With two events planned for the Capitol complex over the weekend, Harrington said the state would maintain a strong law enforcement presence at the complex and elsewhere in the event that rallies or other gatherings break the peace. His department, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, State Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and others, have prepared for possible unrest through the end of the month tied to false claims that the presidential election was invalid.
"We are turning over every rock and looking under every bush to see if there is anything else out there, but I can tell you that the FBI is not finding any credible local threats, the Department of Homeland Security has said to us there is no local credible threats and the state BCA has not found any credible local threats," Harrington said.
The update came after a news report this week revealed that federal officials received word that far-right groups in Michigan and Minnesota late last year were planning violent demonstrations at each state's capital. Two events are slated for this weekend at the state Capitol complex: a "Freedom Fest" rally on Saturday, Jan. 16, and a church service on Sunday, Jan. 17.
The organizer for both events helped coordinate a Jan. 6 "Storm the Capitol" rally in St. Paul. Law enforcement agencies are investigating those who spoke at the event following reports that attendees called for "casualties" and a civil war following the result of the presidential election.
State officials have urged visitors to avoid the Capitol complex over the weekend and said traffic would be diverted in the area. And the U.S. District Court on Friday said federal courts around the state would close through next week due to potential threats.
Following protests at individual lawmakers' homes, Harrington said local law enforcement agencies around the state would also be prepared to assist legislators and others if threats arise.
State leaders and law enforcement officials on Friday said they would protect those peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights but would move to quickly quash any violence.
"We have looked at all the vulnerabilities around the Capitol and around possible attacks and no matter how small or how large, we have taken the right steps to stop that from happening. No detail has been overlooked," Harrington said during the Friday news conference. "If you come to the Capitol with criminal intent on your mind, if you come to the Capitol to commit violent crimes, we will stop you."