Federal officials in Boston said Monday they have no evidence that armed demonstrators intend to target the Massachusetts State House or other nearby state capitols in the coming days, even as the FBI warns of the potential of protests nationwide.
A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police said Monday that the department is aware of “general statements” about potential demonstrations, including an online posting calling for “peaceful armed protest” in all 50 state capitols that provided the basis for an FBI bulletin.
The internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.
Massachusetts already has some of the country’s most stringent firearms laws, including a ban on carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun on “on any public way” — outside of hunting — or carrying an unloaded one that’s not in a case.
But the State Police spokesman David Procopio said the agency is not aware of any “specific threat to government venues or to public safety generally in Massachusetts.”
Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office, also said it does not have “any intelligence” indicating there are planned, armed protests in Massachusetts, or in the three other state capitals in its jurisdiction — in Maine, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island — from Jan. 17 through Jan. 20, the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The violent mob that overran the US Capitol on Wednesday has raised alarms about state capitol security and prompted officials across the country to reexamine their security measures, which vary from state to state.
Michigan officials, for example, on Monday banned the open carry of guns in the state’s Capitol, and in Washington, the governor called up the National Guard in anticipation of the state of the legislative session there. In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s violence, state capitols in New England were otherwise quiet, including as new governors were sworn into office in New Hampshire and Vermont.
On Monday, there was no noticeable increase in police presence at the State House. Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen E. Spilka, and House Speaker Ronald Mariano said in a statement on Friday that they are “aware of the need to ensure the safety of this building and those who work within it.” But they did not indicate any immediate plans to change security measures at the State House, which has remained closed to the public since March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We continually assess our security needs and will adjust as necessary,” they said.
The State House is normally patrolled by a staff of rangers under the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the State Police also have a desk outside Baker’s third-floor executive suite. The governor also travels with a protection detail of troopers.
Procopio, the State Police spokesman, said Monday that the department is in touch with the FBI and would be “prepared for any contingencies” in the coming days. He said if needed, police will adjust their security plans beyond what he called the State House’s already “rigorous, multi-layered security operation.”
“We will be prepared to protect the rights of freedom of assembly in our areas of jurisdiction provided those involved abide by the law and respect the rights, safety, and property of others,” Procopio said.
Todd Wallack of the Globe staff contributed to this report.