Although officials said Thursday that no specific threats have been made, law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania are preparing for the possibility of armed protests at the state Capitol beginning this weekend.
As reported by Jospeh Darius Jaafaris and Cynthia Fernadez from Spotlight, the significant role played by Pennsylvania, in the presidential election has caused Capitol Police to increase security at the complex in Harrisburg.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday that over 450 state National Guard members have been put on active duty to assist Harrisburg and the surrounding community should violence occur.
“While there are no specific threats to the Capitol or the Capitol Complex, we are taking actions out of the abundance of caution, to be prepared in case any situations arise,” Capitol Police Superintendent Joseph Jacob told reporters Thursday.
Officials said they have been following online posts that encourage those who cannot attend an armed march in Washington this Sunday to instead gather in their home states.
“We have no specific intelligence, relative to the Capitol Complex,” Lt. Col. Scott Price of the Pennsylvania State Police said. “There’s a lot of generalized intelligence and we continue to scour various platforms incessantly in an attempt to get a very robust operational picture.”
The Pennsylvania State Police has a bomb squad and mounted police officers, should violence occur near the complex. Both Capitol and State Police officials said they are treating possible protests like others they have seen in recent months.
Those have included ReOpen PA gatherings criticizing the governor’s coronavirus mitigation efforts and Stop the Steal events, where pro-Trump protesters have claimed election fraud.
Many of those rallies have included militia groups, such as The Three Percenters, whose members were seen storming the U.S. Capitol last week. While there have been tense moments, the events in Pennsylvania have not become violent.
“A chess game”
It has not been an easy task for authorities to figure out with precision potential threats because the usual channels for organizing such as Facebook, Parler, and Gab have either been shut down, removed, or overwhelmed to the point of being unusable.
“Right now, it’s a chess game,” said Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter about protests turning violent, adding that the changing right-wing social media landscape has made it more difficult to forecast possible threats.