CT National Guard, law enforcement coordinating efforts to secure government buildings ahead of planned armed protests

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut National Guard and state law enforcement are coordinating their efforts for the next couple of weeks after the FBI warned of armed protests and potential threats to government buildings on or around Inauguration Day.

From newly erected barricades at entryways to barriers around Connecticut’s Capitol, authorities are on high alert after the breach of the nation’s Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters last week.

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“I have a high degree of confidence that Connecticut’s going to stay peaceful,” Governor Ned Lamont said during his daily briefing Monday.

Increased patrols and barriers are in place after an FBI memo warned of planned armed protests at all 50 capitols, leading up to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

“Our state police are working with their national counterparts and working on a regional basis, are tracking the social media very, very carefully,” Gov. Lamont said.

Security at the Capitol has changed dramatically: Metal barriers ring the perimeter, state police and capital police patrol the grounds and have security checkpoints at the entrances. The Connecticut National Guard is the most recent layer of protection. They will be providing additional security in the form of critical infrastructure protection.

Captain Dave Pytlik with the CT National Guard said, “We are here to make sure we are protecting the property and people, and we are protecting people’s constitutional right to protest peacefully.”

While they didn’t provide further details on their locations due to security concerns, the National Guard said it will be working in support of the state police, capitol police and local law enforcement.

“We are prepared,” Gov. Lamont said. “We’re prepared with our guard, our municipal police the capitol police, and we’re going to be very clear to people, you know, ‘stay safe, stay home.’ We don’t want protestors coming out right now.”

Connecticut’s Office of Legislative Management oversees the Capitol complex. House Speaker Matt Ritter said there are no specific threats in Connecticut outside of what’s noted in that FBI memo. He said buildings will be secured.

“It’s [a potential pro-Trump protest] on a Sunday, so one recommendation would be to not go near this protest,” Representative Ritter (D-Hartford) said Tuesday.

State capitol police said it is monitoring things extremely closely, saying in part:

We have plans and policies in place to protect all who enter our grounds and building. We are aware of upcoming events — and we will be planning accordingly as we see fit.

State Capitol Police

For safety reasons, Lamont’s office won’t get into security specifics. But said security assessments are being done on state buildings. Lamont is briefed on the matter daily.

“90 percent of the activity is focused on D.C…can’t take our eye off the ball,” Gov. Lamont said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “Chief Rovella of state police is working with capitol police…I’m confident we will get the job done.”

And this ramp up of security is not just at the Capitol.

Judicial Marshals are also working with federal and state officials. They released a statement Tuesday saying:

Through coordinated and cooperative information sharing at the state, local and national level, the Judicial Branch is aware of recent threats to state capitols and other governmental buildings nationwide. In light of these threats, additional security measures will be taken to protect Judicial Branch facilities and the staff, judges, and members of the public who work in or enter these facilities.

Our judicial marshals are well trained and well prepared. Our Judicial Marshal Services Unit is engaged in ongoing communication and security planning with the Connecticut State Police, the Capitol Police, and other local, state, and federal agencies regarding any additional assistance that may be required.

As to specific security measures being taken, we would decline comment.

O’Donovan Murphy, Director of the Judicial Branch’s Judicial Marshal Services Unit

“Based on the FBI, there are concerns about the capitol, but we are not just at the capitol, we are throughout the entire state,” Pytlik added. “We are always ready and always there to provide whatever support the state may need for any security situation.”

For security reasons, the National Guard would not discuss the number, location, or even what units are being deployed.

“The security mission…this is one of the most challenging, the most challenging mission that we can be assigned to…These are our neighbors, we live here, we are from Connecticut,” Pylik said.

He said the CT National Guard is stationed not just at the Capitol but across the state and “across the nation. We are also sending over 100 guardsmen down to Washington DC, while we are simultaneously protecting people and property here in Connecticut, while we are also continuing to support the COVID-19 response.”

How long will this ramped-up security mission last? The National Guard said that is also a secret, that they can’t really reveal. However, they will be in place right up to the inauguration.

Still reeling from deadly violence last week, the nation’s Capitol is also on alert.

Ritter said he hopes violent sentiments unleashed in D.C. will begin to fade after Inauguration Day.

“If you give the FBI and Homeland Security a free hand, which I’m not sure they’ve necessarily had the last few years, they will infiltrate, they will crack down on these individuals, and I think they will be sent to the dust bin of history,” Ritter said.

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