Dwell Protests Right this moment: Monitoring the Capitol and Across the Nation


Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

The atmosphere was tense in the nation’s capital and at statehouses across the country on Sunday, as several armed groups arrived at state capitols, where military vehicles and police barricades lined the streets and officials braced for pro-Trump protests that they feared could lead to violence.

About 25 members of the antigovernment extremist “boogaloo” movement were among the heavily armed protesters who gathered at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. But the men — who are part of a group that hopes a second civil war will lead to the U.S. government’s overthrow —  said they were there for a long-planned gun rights rally that they insisted had nothing to do with President Trump.

Henry Locke, 27, of the Ohio chapter of the Boogaloo Boys, said he and other members had planned a unity rally to bring different groups together under the Constitution. Many in his group carried military-style rifles, wore camouflage vests and carried ammunition.

“Here in Ohio, we advocate for everyone’s individual liberties equally,” Mr. Locke said.

Several armed protesters also arrived at state capitols in Texas, Oregon and Michigan, but the grounds of statehouses across the country were largely quiet on Sunday, even as many states had fortified the buildings with an influx of National Guard troops or state police.

A handful of Mr. Trump’s supporters did appear at the Ohio rally, as did a group of counterprotesters, but the groups largely milled about peacefully, occasionally trading insults.

At least 19 states deployed National Guard troops to their capitols, and several shut down statehouse grounds and delayed legislative sessions in response to F.B.I. warnings that white supremacists and right-wing extremists could target capital cities across the country.

Here is what our reporters are seeing at other state capitols where armed protesters have gathered.

  • Austin, Texas: Protesters began gathering in the morning at the Texas State Capitol, which the state had closed out of concerns over the protest. Armed officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety patrolled the rolling Capitol grounds and guarded the entrance to the nearby governor’s mansion.

    Daniel Hunter, a 34-year-old handyman, said he had driven from Waco to attend the protest. “The only reason I’m here is to ensure that no one storms the Capitol,” Mr. Hunter said. “If they do, I’ll get in front of them and be trampled.”

    Another protester lounged against a stone wall, holding a semiautomatic rifle and smoking a cigarette. He declined to give his name and said that he, too, was there of his own accord, to “observe what was going on.”

    There was at least one anti-Trump demonstrator, Andrea Ariel, a 63-year-old dance teacher who wore a sandwich board designed to look like a post office box. She danced to a recording of Stevie Wonder’s song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” with an American flag in one hand and a sign reading “Democracy is for Everyone” in the other.

    — Michael Hardy

  • Salem, Ore.: Five men dressed in military-style clothing marched onto the grounds of the park across the street from the Oregon State Capitol around 10:30 a.m. They waved flags, including an upside-down American flag, and one held a “Disarm the Government!” sign made with marker on a white poster.

    “We want to show the rest of the country that we have rights,” said one of the protesters.

    The five men, who declined to give their names, insisted that they were not part of any group or organization. “We don’t support Trump, and we don’t support Biden,” the man with the patch said.

    “We always end up losing rights, whoever’s in office,” added another, his face hidden by a mask.

    — Emily Shetler

  • Lansing, Mich: A small group of people armed with military-style weapons gathered in front of the State Capitol on Sunday morning, but with National Guard troops and State Police surrounding the building, nearly all of the protesters who had shown up were gone by early afternoon.

    “That’s why I’m here, because my vote got stolen,” said Richard Maurer, 65, a small business owner from Owosso. “Biden is never going to be my president. I’m going to fight him whenever I get the chance.”

    Among the armed men in Michigan were also adherents of the “boogaloo” movement, who warned that the government was the enemy that protesters should be focused on.

    “I’m not here to fight anybody, but I’m not going to keep quiet either, ” said a man in a Trump hat who said he was from Greenville but declined to give his name because, he said, his bosses are a “bunch of libs” who might not look kindly on his participation in the protest.

    There was also an unexpected sign of support for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has for months been the target of right-wing protesters. Lorence Wenke, a former Republican state representative from Kalamazoo, had a large sign attached to his pickup truck outside the Capitol that thanked Ms. Whitmer for her “leadership, grace and integrity.”

    “I wanted to be here as one person representing what I think most of the population of Michigan thinks, and that is that she’s doing a good job,” said Mr. Wenke, who switched from the Republican to the Libertarian party and who had served with Ms. Whitmer in the legislature.

    — Kathleen Gray

Inauguration preparations in Washington.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

U.S. Capitol Police have arrested a woman they said drove up to an inauguration checkpoint and falsely claimed she was a police officer and a member of the president’s cabinet, the authorities said.

The arrest on Saturday is the latest to raise alarms as the city braces for planned protests on Sunday and possible clashes on Wednesday, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to be sworn in as the next president.

As many as 25,000 National Guard troops are expected to flood the city by Inauguration Day, and officials have tried to keep some people who participated in the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 from returning to the city.

The arrest on Friday of a Virginia man who had a gun in his truck raised residents’ fears until it was determined that the man appeared to be a security contractor who had illegally brought his personal gun into the District, where it was not registered.

Early on Sunday morning, city police officers also arrested a 22-year-old man from Virginia who they said had a handgun that he was not allowed to carry in the District. The man, identified as Guy Berry, 22, of Gordonsville, Va., was walking about a block away from Columbus Circle and had a Glock that was visible in a holster, three high-capacity magazines and 37 rounds of ammunition, the police said.

The woman arrested on Saturday, who the police identified as Linda MaGovern, 63, of Stratford, Conn., pulled up to a checkpoint near Columbus Circle, about half a mile from the U.S. Capitol, around 8:45 a.m. and showed officers a “military police challenge coin,” an unofficial keepsake widely distributed in military and police communities, according to a report from the city’s Metropolitan Police Department. The woman initially parked her car at the request of officers, but when they asked for her driver’s license, she began to drive away, the police said.

The police were able to stop her a few hundred feet away, in front of Union Station, and she was accused of three crimes: impersonating a police officer, failing to obey a police officer and trying to flee a police officer. The report said she was taken to a hospital for evaluation at a psychiatric unit. Ms. MaGovern could not immediately be reached.

The Metropolitan Police Department frequently makes gun arrests, although they rarely receive so much attention. In the week between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, for example, the department reported that it had recovered 59 guns and arrested dozens of people on related gun charges.

VideoVideo player loadingThe police and members of the National Guard filled the Capitol and the streets of Washington ahead of possible armed protests on Sunday and the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Jan. 20.CreditCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The crowds were sparse by midday in the nation’s capital, but law enforcement and National Guard troops remained on high alert, hoping to head off any repeat of the riot less than two weeks ago, when President Trump’s supporters breached the nation’s Capitol.

In Washington, concerns mounted over the weekend ahead of the presidential inauguration on Wednesday. A militarized “green zone” grew downtown, as streets were blocked by concrete barricades and military vehicles, and dozens more soldiers arrived in a large black and orange bus. Pentagon officials said that 15,000 National Guard members from all 50 states and 3 territories had arrived in Washington by Saturday, and that as many as 25,000 could arrive by Wednesday.

Federal officials are vetting hundreds of possible airplane passengers, putting any who have been identified among the violent protesters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 on a “no fly list.” The Transportation Security Administration added federal marshals on flights and explosive-detection dogs at airports. And F.B.I. agents have been working to find people who illegally entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 and are also seeking to interview people already under investigation in connection with other domestic terrorism cases to stamp out potential threats, officials said.

Here is what our reporters are seeing on Sunday in the capital of a nation on edge.

  • The corner of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at midday was a scene from an occupied city. A tall, stiff metal fence blocked the public from getting any closer to the Capitol, 500 yards to the east. Inside the fence, soldiers holding military weapons stood talking near a large jumble of cardboard boxes and water bottles. Dozens more were getting off a large black and orange bus.

    Traffic lights over the intersection cycled uselessly between red to green. The Capitol gleamed in the sunlight, with five American flags hanging vertically just beneath the dome.

    Just before 1 p.m., Secret Service agents were checking the wheels and interiors of cars parked along an otherwise quiet Massachusetts Avenue.

    — Sabrina Tavernise and Elizabeth Dias

  • A scattering of early risers: As the sun rose over the Capitol, all was still except for the troops of armed soldiers spilling into the street from behind tall fencing. Constitution Avenue was closed to vehicles, leaving the expansive roadway wide open for early morning runners like me.

    A few workers walked down the street clutching coffee cups; a homeless person slept atop the vents blowing warm air from the Metro subway station below. A couple of sightseers were in front of the armored vehicles and black fencing that kept people from the Capitol grounds, snapping photos of the building framed by a hot pink sky.

    — Dionne Searcey

  • “They’re protecting us”: Pedestrians seemed more curious than worried, walking with dogs and drink cups, looking at how much of the city had been blocked off with barricades. A small group of National Guard soldiers stood on 17th Street just north of K Street, a couple of blocks from the White House, looking at their phones and nodding at passers-by.

    Shortly before 9 a.m., at Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street, Smokey Sims, 33, was doing a little dance to a Wilco song blasting from a speaker, with the lyric “All you fascists were born to lose.” Was he nervous about what might happen today? “We got the military out here, so we’re good,” he answered.

    “I pray nothing happen, but even if it does, I feel like we’re protected,” he added. “Most of the cops here, they’re protecting us. And look at all those National Guard,” he said, motioning toward a group of soldiers walking by on I Street.

    — Sabrina Tavernise

Mr. Warnock campaigning earlier this month.Credit…Lynsey Weatherspoon for The New York Times

The Rev. Raphael Warnock on Sunday preached a message of equity, integrity and possibility from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, drawing parallels between the turmoil now gripping the nation and the mission pursued by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The pulpit at Ebenezer in Atlanta, which had once belonged to Dr. King and is one of the most prominent religious perches in the South, had been a springboard for Mr. Warnock, the church’s senior pastor who was elected as a Democrat this month to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate.

In a special sermon tied to Mr. King’s national holiday on Monday, Mr. Warnock noted that the struggles that he is fighting reflect the ways the ones Dr. King had confronted have endured and evolved. Toward the end of his life, Dr. King was focused on poverty, a struggle punishing African-Americans but a fight that also transcended race. Dr. King went to Memphis, where he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, for a strike of Black sanitation workers, whose anger over low pay and dilapidated equipment ignited after two workers were crushed by a malfunctioning garbage truck.

Now, more than 50 years later, Mr. Warnock said, people were still being “crushed in the machinery of systems that don’t care about them.”

He pointed to the weakened purchasing power of a minimum-wage income, and noted the lower wages of workers whose jobs have been critical during the pandemic — “Call them essential workers,” he said, “but refuse to pay them an essential wage.”

Mr. Warnock read from the Book of Isaiah: “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” He contended that those words underscored a divine mandate to create a level playing field.

“The folk who are accustomed to sitting high,” Mr. Warnock said, “must come down just a little so that folk who sit so low can come up a little.”

He said the rancor rippling through the country was a reflection of an “unleashing of unembarrassed racism.”

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, parity and equity and equality may feel like oppression,” Mr. Warnock said. “That’s what the current backlash is all about.”

National Guard Soldiers rest between shifts in the Visitor Center in the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.Credit…U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Images of a line of soldiers weighed down by their rucksacks marching toward the Capitol. Armed soldiers lying on the floor of the visitor center as the Statue of Freedom hovers over them. Silhouettes of armored helmets in front of the outer rotunda.

As a photographer for the public affairs unit of the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Master Sgt. Matt Hecht has been documenting a most unusual activation: the arrival of armed troops to ensure a peaceful transition of power of the American government. “These past few days have been insane,” Matt Hecht wrote on his Instagram account where he has documented the arrival of armed soldiers in the Capitol area where a riot broke out last week as a mob broke into the building.

“I got pretty emotional when a thousand things came together, and I got to cover my home units securing the Capitol en masse at sunset,” he wrote. “I also got to see the troops bivouac inside the Capitol — as they did during the Civil War and other historical events.”

As a member of the Air Force National Guard, Mr. Hecht deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on missions that he recalled as being somewhat similar to what troops are doing now in Washington, D.C. — directing traffic, securing the perimeter of a fenced-off area and supporting local law enforcement.

“It’s obviously different being on home soil, but we’re here for those same reasons — to protect people and property,” said Mr. Hecht, a 43-year-old from New Jersey who has served in the military nearly 20 years. For the past year, Mr. Hecht has documented soldiers involved in domestic activities, starting with assisting at Covid-19 testing sites and long-term care facilities, helping out as poll workers and offering security during civil disturbances in Washington, D.C.

“This year in every aspect has been unlike everything we’ve ever seen before,” he said. “A lot got asked from the Guard last year. These are people taking time away from their families and jobs, and they’re just people like everybody else in the community. They’re people’s neighbors.”

The Capitol Police offered a tour of the building for troops when they arrived last week, pointing out scars from the Jan. 6 riot, leading them through the National Statuary Hall and offering them doughnuts at the cafeteria. “There were hundreds of doughnuts,” he said. Mr. Hecht remembers touring the Capitol as a student and said he and other soldiers marveled at the gravity of the historic moment this week brings.

It hit him when he stood on the red carpet, covered in plastic to keep it clean, where President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will stand Wednesday, and where presidents before have stood before taking the oath of office. “It’s been unbelievable experience to be part of history,” he said.

A mob climb the walls of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

The ragged camps of far-right groups and white nationalists emboldened under President Trump have long nursed an overlapping list of hatreds and goals: Overthrowing the government. Igniting a second Civil War. Banishing racial minorities, immigrants and Jews. Or simply sowing chaos in the streets.

But now they have been galvanized by the outgoing president’s false claims that the election was stolen from him — and by the violent attack on the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 that hundreds of them led in his name.

“The politicians who have lied, betrayed and sold out the American people for decades were forced to cower in fear and scatter like rats,” one group, known for pushing the worst anti-Semitic tropes, commented on Twitter the day after the attack.

The Capitol riots served as a propaganda coup for the far right, and those who track hate groups say the attack is likely to join an extremist lexicon with Waco, Ruby Ridge and the Bundy occupation of an Oregon wildlife preserve in fueling recruitment and violence for years to come.

Even as dozens of rioters have been arrested, chat rooms and messaging apps where the far right congregates are filled with celebrations and plans. An ideological jumble of hate groups and far-right agitators — the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, the Boogaloo movement and neo-Nazis among them — are now discussing how to expand their rosters and whether to take to the streets again this week to oppose the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Some, enraged by their failure to overturn the presidential election, have posted manuals on waging guerrilla warfare and building explosive devices.

“People saw what we can do, they know what’s up, they want in,” boasted one message on a Proud Boys Telegram channel earlier this week.

The State Capitol in Richmond, Va., and the square in front of the building were secured with fencing and boards on Friday.Credit…Brian Palmer for The New York Times

RICHMOND, Va. — Police officers have shut down the square around Virginia’s Capitol and plan to close streets in downtown Richmond on Sunday and Monday in an attempt to discourage the kind of violent mob that surged through the nation’s Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6.

State capitals across the country were on high alert following an F.B.I. bulletin last week warning of planned violence against the government, but concerns were particularly high in Richmond. This weekend is the anniversary of a major gun rights protest that drew about 22,000 people to the state Capitol last year, most of them armed.

The protesters massed last year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, which is a traditional day for Virginia residents to lobby the state legislature at the beginning of its term. The authorities braced for the possibility of violence, fueled by reports that white supremacists, armed militia groups and other extremists planned to attend the rally. But in the end, the police reported no major incidents or violence and announced only one arrest.

City and state authorities have said they are prepared for any disruptions this year, and officials put the city under a state of emergency. “If you come here and act out, Virginia will be ready,” Gov. Ralph Northam said on Thursday.

State legislators are not convening at the Capitol for this year’s General Assembly session because of coronavirus concerns. Instead, the State Senate is meeting at the Science Museum of Virginia, where there is room to spread out their desks, and the House of Delegates has opted for a fully remote session.

The authorities said their primary focus will be monitoring a “rolling caravan” of Second Amendment supporters who plan to drive through the city on Monday, in a pandemic-era version of last year’s rally. Both years’ events were planned by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights organization.

Added security around the Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., on Sunday.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Across the country, officials were braced for protests at state capitol buildings, but the day started calmly. Here is what our reporters were seeing.

  • Boston: Hundreds of police officers were deployed in a perimeter around the Massachusetts State House, many with the helmets and batons traditionally used for crowd control.

    “What’s going on?” shouted a pedestrian, and an officer responded, “Maybe a demonstration, maybe not.”

    Nezer Porter, who works in property maintenance but also curates a YouTube site documenting current events, was filming the police preparations on his cellphone. “They’re prepared for battle,” he said. “They want all hands on deck for this one.”

    The police also closed a network of streets surrounding the State House, which has been the site of numerous protests in recent months.

    A police spokeswoman, Officer Shandra Pinto, said the closures were not linked to specific threats, but “just for security reasons,” and that it was not clear how long the streets would remain closed.

    Aside from the deployment of police, it could have been any January Sunday on Beacon Hill, with church bells playing hymns and children bundled up in snowsuits at the Tadpole Playground. Tourists and dog walkers crisscrossed Boston Common, seemingly unaware of any threat to their security.

    — Ellen Barry

  • Harrisburg, Pa.: Dozens of journalists were looking for someone to photograph or interview on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol at midday. Police on horseback trotted up and down the street, and soldiers stood in small groups chatting. But as for protest, there was almost nothing.

    Reporters and photographers descended on a man who identified himself only as Eddie and had come to sell $10 anti-Biden shirts at the protest out of his van. But Eddie, who lives outside of Philadelphia, left early when he saw no market for his goods.

    They flocked by the dozens around a liberal counter-protester who had set up a complicated prop in which he appeared to be pulling a Trump statue off of a pedestal. This was a counter without a protest until Alex, a Trump supporter who had been on the scene earlier, returned with a bullhorn to rail for a few minutes at the biases of the media.

    Reporters gathered around one man who showed up with a yellow Gadsden flag face mask, but kept their distance from another who was wearing a Pizzagate T-shirt and holding a poster with obscure anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

    For a brief moment around noon it appeared there would be something happening, as a man wearing a long rainbow scarf and eating pasta out of a Styrofoam box walked to the top of the Capitol steps and began shouting at the police officers and even at one point pushed a barrier. His message was unclear, but the press congregated and the police warned him to stay back.

    The man in the scarf turned and walked back down the steps. He shouted, “Who here voted for Trump?”

    At the bottom of the steps, a man who had stopped to take photos of the activity laughed and said quietly, “Well I did.”

    His wife quickly turned to him with a worried look: “Steve, shut up!,” she said.

    — Campbell Robertson

  • Santa Fe: The number of New Mexico State Police officers stationed around the state Capitol in Santa Fe on Sunday morning dwarfed the smattering of pedestrians and motorists downtown.

    In addition to the heavy police presence, authorities removed postal collection boxes from adjacent areas and placed fencing and concrete barriers around the New Mexico State Capitol. The Albuquerque F.B.I. division also set up a command post to monitor emerging threats and share intelligence.

    “While we will protect and defend the peaceful exercise of free speech, we will not tolerate violence, wanton disregard for the law, or incitement to criminal activity,” said Fred Federici, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico.

    Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, placing the New Mexico National Guard on standby. Some camouflage-clad members of the guard could be seen at blocked off intersections near the Capitol.

    — Simon Romero

  • Tallahassee, Fla.: Concerns about a rancorous armed protest at the State Capitol here brought plenty of law enforcement on Sunday, but by midday the most noise was coming from a lone helicopter overhead and a Whitney Houston song blaring from a red sedan on Monroe Street.

    The only people who showed up at the appointed hour were journalists and onlookers. Ron Williams, 69, kept a distance and took photos of the barren Capitol. He said he was concerned about the potential for violence after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

    Authorities here shared that concern. There was a bomb-sniffing dog, officers perched atop a building, and more law enforcement out of plain sight. A few minutes after noon, three state patrolmen walked into a staging area with boxes of Dunkin’ coffee, preparing for a long shift ahead.

    — Eric Adelson

  • Atlanta: At Georgia’s gold-domed Capitol, the biggest crowd consisted of journalists. The building itself was well-fortified with military personnel in fatigues and helmets and a large contingent of Capitol police in broad-brimmed hats.

    A number of streets around the Capitol were blocked to traffic by trucks or police SUVs. In the early afternoon a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters marched, shouted and then left.

    A little after 2 p.m., two young white men arrived. One was dressed in military fatigues and had a rifle slung over his shoulder. The other wore jeans and had a red streak in his long black hair. He had a shotgun on his back. They approached a metal barricade at the bottom of a set of Capitol steps. Above them were roughly a dozen members of the military who stood next to their armored vehicles. A staring contest ensued. The young men stood by the barricade, looking up the steps, weapons on their backs. The military seemed to exude both vigilance and nonchalance. Photographers snapped photos. It was eerily quiet.

    The two men, who wore masks and did not give their names, said they had thought more allies might show up. The weapons, they said, were necessary because they did not trust the authorities — self protection, they said, in case someone in power were to shoot first.

    — Richard Fausset

  • Sacramento: Chain link fence and portable metal barriers surrounded the Capitol building Sunday, and armed National Guard troops were posted on street corners outside the state library and the office of the Secretary of State. Police choppers circled overhead.

    Residents of the downtown loft district stopped to gawk and take photos, and joggers and dog-walkers strolled the downtown sidewalks in the sunshine past pre-emptively boarded-up buildings.

    “Can you believe this is happening in America?” a passerby on a Bird scooter muttered from behind his face mask. The man gave his name only as “Michael,” explaining that “this is the start of the police state.”

    — Shawn Hubler

A small group of armed protesters, including “Nobody,” at the far left, outside the statehouse in Concord, N.H., on Sunday.Credit…Joseph Prezioso/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

CONCORD, N.H. — A handful of demonstrators milled around outside the gold-domed statehouse near a statue of Daniel Webster Sunday afternoon, as state police strolled in pairs to keep watch.

A maskless man who said he had legally changed his name to “Nobody” drank from a half-gallon of orange juice and smoked a cigarette as he cheerfully listed his concerns about the possibility of a mandatory coronavirus vaccine. (“Nobody” has run for governor and for mayor of Keene, N.H., with slogans like “Nobody tells the truth.”) A friend, Ian Freeman, a Libertarian talk radio host who had also changed his name for the political resonance, speculated that the sparse attendance was because of rumors that the event was a “government honey pot” designed to entrap activists.

By 1 p.m., five masked men decked out in camouflage and tactical gear and carrying AR-15s had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the statehouse lawn for what they said was a demonstration planned weeks before Jan. 6, to express concerns about “government overreach” on a variety of fronts. They identified themselves as members of the far-right Boogaloo movement, and carried flags with the movement’s signature Hawaiian prints and igloo icons.

One man wore a patch reading “Weapons are part of my religion,” which he identified as a line from “The Mandalorian” that amused him. Another man handed out fliers, though he said he had only a few because his printer was having issues.

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