Five days after violent riots at the U.S. Capitol leaving five people dead, the FBI is warning of armed protests planned at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
An internal FBI bulletin first reported by ABC News suggests nationwide protests could be coming this week and last days until Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. According to AP News, Investigators believe some of the people involved in the planning of these gathering are members of extremist groups.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is supporting our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners with maintaining public safety in the communities we serve,” the bureau said in a statement to the AP. “Our efforts are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals that are inciting violence and engaging in criminal activity.”
The FBI said it wasn’t focused on peaceful protest, but rather “on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”
State officials across the nation have reportedly asked for assistance from the National Guard ahead of the protests. While President Donald Trump is blocked on most social media sites due to inciting the violent acts at the Capitol last week, several actors are following his lead and calling for violence to disrupt a peaceful transition of power.
Trump has already announced he would be returning to Florida and won’t be attend Biden’s inauguration.
The FBI is said to be tracking militias, white supremacists groups and other far-right extremists as they use online channels to plot potential attacks on government grounds in the upcoming days.
David Deitch, a former for the Justice Department’s counterterrorism section, told the AP that law enforcement must recognize a “tenuous balance” between protected free speech and calls for violence.
“It’s a very fact-based, case-by-case determination,” he said. “There’s no one factor that’s going to determine all of it. It’s certainly going to be a judgment call on the part of law enforcement about whether and when to intervene.”