HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — After the breach of the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, Connecticut officials have ramped up security around Connecticut’s Capitol in Hartford ahead of Inauguration Day.
If you’re driving by the capital or any federal buildings around the state, you may have noticed armed Connecticut National Guard standing at attention, patrolling the grounds on foot and in humvees. It can be a little startling if you’re not expecting it.
The FBI sent out a bulletin last week warning of possible nationwide armed protests from this weekend through the inauguration Wednesday, so law enforcement at state capitals across the country are on high alert, including here in CT.
“We learned about the possibility of armed protest at all 50 state capitals,” Trooper Jose Dorelus of the Connecticut State Police told News 8 on Sunday.
Trooper Dorelus told News 8 Monday, “It is your right to exercise your First Amendment right, but for those who wish to create some type of disruption or those outside agitators we want to make the message clear: we will take appropriate action.”
In addition to soldiers standing guard at the federal courthouses, capital, and legislative office buildings, Governor Ned Lamont has asked all capital employees to work from home Wednesday to limit volume and is asking the general public to do the same.
Governor Lamont said, “We are prepared with a guard, with municipal police, and the capitol police. And we are going to be very clear to people: stay safe and stay home.”
Capital Avenue in Hartford was shut down Sunday. Dump trucks filled with sand and blockades closing roads ringing the Capitol and legislative office buildings. State police K-9s and their handlers patrolled the grounds around the capital.
No protesters showed up at the capital Sunday, but the state was ready.
“Lawmakers came to us with tips that needed to be vetted out; citizens came to us with tips that needed to be vetted out, and they were, and major crimes has been working nonstop in vetting those tips out,” Trooper Dorelus added.
One of the reasons the state went all out, above and beyond the normal security measures, is because they lost an important part of their intelligence recently: social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have started pulling violent, anti-government threats along with other websites.
That is important intelligence piece that state police used to use to see exactly what may be coming to CT and who is out there making threats. They were monitoring the chatter out there, so to speak, and they don’t have that anymore.
Brian Foley of the CSP said, “Law enforcement lost an arm of their intelligence gathering, just an arm, a big one but they have other ways of doing it. There is a whole other side to the web to look at, and a lot of other things going on.”
Often times we talk about the security that you can’t see, the security behind the scenes. We were given permission to film inside a garage that is a staging area behind the scenes where state troopers park their cars.
There are multiple layers of cars parked throughout that garage, as well as multiple layers of security that you can see, others you can’t see; the layer you can’t see is very large.
Foley said, “I don’t believe that you can overprepare for this type of situation. I would much rather be here next Friday telling you that we overprepared, as opposed to saying that we underprepared.”
So how long are we going to see the Connecticut National Guard in front of the LLB and around the capital, with state police at the perimeters? It is hard to tell. they say there will be some sort of security measures in place up to and through Inauguration Day Wednesday.
Foley added, “And we don’t want to arrest anybody, so if the day ends and the week ends peacefully, bravo again for the State of Connecticut and how they’ve handled everything.”
Foley tweeted an image Sunday afternoon writing, “A cautious, but significant scale-back of law enforcement resources underway in may Connecticut locations. Still, many levels of resources to remain on watch through the coming days.”
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also releasing a statement saying, in part, “We will not accept or tolerate violence or mob aggression of any kind. And in the wake of the unprecedented attack on our nation’s Capitol last week, we will be taking extra precautions, along with our state and federal partners.”
Many people surprised to see the National Guard deployed on the streets around government buildings, and they have been approaching to ask questions. The guard respectfully asks that you keep your distance; they are trying to protect the perimeter. And so far things have been peaceful.
You are going to see different levels of security throughout the week. Sometimes you’ll see the armored humvees, sometimes you won’t. That depends on the mood and intelligence that comes in and out of Washington D.C., as well as off the internet and what State Police have gathered. All that will determine exactly how much security you see, and for how long.