JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The insurrection by supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol this week has prompted governors and lawmakers in several states to heighten security at their own capitol buildings as they gather amid a pandemic for legislative sessions and inaugural ceremonies.
Like the U.S. Capitol, statehouses are regular targets for demonstrations. Many already have armed security personnel and metal detectors that screen visitors.
But if the U.S. Capitol — a shining symbol of democracy with a dedicated police force— can be overrun by a violent mob, could state capitols be next?
This week's events were “a wakeup call for everybody, both in D.C. and in state capitals all across the country,” said Washington state Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the chamber's Republican leader.
A series of smaller-scale flare-ups occurred last year at state capitols. Last spring, armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol to object to pandemic-related lockdowns. Some were blocked by police while demanding entry onto the House floor, while others shouted down from the Senate gallery.
In Ohio, people upset about the death of George Floyd in Minnesota smashed 28 windows at the statehouse.
Protesters in Idaho temporarily derailed a special legislative session last August. And just a few weeks ago, crowds in Oregon forced their way into the Capitol to protest its closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures.
On Friday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was activating up to 750 National Guard troops to join state police in patrolling the capitol in Olympia on Monday, when lawmakers return to session. He said an area will be set aside for demonstrators to hold rallies.