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Massachusetts State House fortified; police gather Sunday as precaution ahead of presidential inauguration

Hundreds of Boston police officers arrived in buses on Beacon Street Sunday and made their way toward the State House.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The State House became a fortress Sunday as hundreds of police officers stood guard and rows of metal barricades fenced it off amid nationwide fears of confrontations with right-wing extremist groups ahead of Wednesday’s presidential inauguration.

The security measures followed the deadly Jan. 6 attempted insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of President Trump and warnings from the FBI of the potential for armed protests at the Capitol and in all 50 state capitals.

In several states, including Michigan, Ohio, and South Carolina, groups of demonstrators, including armed Trump supporters, were reported in capital cities on Sunday.

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The protests come at a fraught time for the country as many Republicans continue to claim, without evidence, that President-elect Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election. Trump’s impeachment trial could begin as early as this week in the US Senate, after the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach the outgoing president and charged him with “incitement of insurrection.”

In Massachusetts, officials with Boston police, State Police, and the Boston office of the FBI told the Globe Sunday that they knew of no specific threats in the state.

Kristen Setera, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office, said the agency has established a command post to gather intelligence and support other law enforcement agencies.

Between now and Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, officials will maintain a “heightened posture” to monitor for any emerging threats to the region, she said in a statement.

“We are focused on identifying, investigating, and disrupting individuals who were involved in the siege of the Capitol, and those who may try to instigate violence and engage in criminal activity here locally,” Setera said.

State Police spokesman David Procopio said if law enforcement intelligence reveals planned protest activity, officials will increase security, including efforts visible to the public, such as greater presence or traffic control.

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“These steps are precautionary and proactive, and are designed to protect people’s safety and property while ensuring protection of freedom of expression and lawful assembly,” Procopio said in a statement.

In Boston Sunday, there was a dramatic show of force by police around the State House, where workers had erected a shell of metal barricades and local streets were blocked to traffic.

Throngs of officers — many carrying batons and wearing helmets and yellow Boston police vests — were bused shortly before to the State House, where they spent several hours mobilized around the building.

Around 2:30 p.m., they boarded vans that carried them away from the scene.

Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, declined in a phone interview to release information about further police precautions, citing public safety concerns.

In the days since the US Capitol riot, more than one-third of state governors have called out National Guard members to protect capitol buildings in recent days. Those efforts created unsettling images of the nation’s houses of democracy looking like fortified encampments in the days before Biden becomes the nation’s 46th president.

In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that there have been no known or credible threats in the state.

Baker has called up 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard, mobilizing half of them to help provide security in Washington D.C. for Biden’s inauguration. The Massachusetts Guard members’ primary mission will be to protect the House of Representatives.

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The remaining 500 state Guard members will assist local law enforcement in Massachusetts in the coming days if needed, officials have said.

Boston police officers arrived in buses on Beacon Street and made their way up Joy Street as they fanned out around the State House ahead of concerns over a protest by far-right groups Sunday. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

On Sunday morning, workers had erected barricades that limited access to the building and blocked nearby streets, cordoning off some neighborhood runners and dog-walkers who circled the area looking for an exit.

Patrick and Kasey Cunningham, who traveled from Florida to Boston over the weekend, were planning to walk around the State House and the Boston Common Sunday with their two daughters. Instead, they encountered metal fences as they approached the corner of Bowdoin and Beacon streets.

“It was a bit off-putting,” Kasey Cunningham said. “But I would prefer to feel safe.”

Most of those barriers were removed Sunday afternoon, and streets were reopened, though barricades directly in front of the state capitol building remained in place. Some ground-level windows on the State House, which had been covered by plexiglass, also remained protected Sunday.

There was at least one pro-Trump protester out on Sunday.

Bob Hartwell, 67, of Dorchester, stood alone on Boston Common at noon wearing a mask and carrying a sign that read “Make America Great Again.”

He said he didn’t expect to be joined by anyone else and thought the heavy police presence was “over-exaggerated.” He came to the State House Sunday, he said, because he thinks the 2020 election was “stolen.”

“They want to squash [Trump’s] movement,” Hartwell said. “The movement is bigger than Donald Trump. If he was so unpopular, he wouldn’t have gotten so many votes.”

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Officials from across the country, including Republican election officials, have repeatedly said the 2020 vote was a free and fair election.

As the sun set Sunday, dozens of metal barricades and a few police officers were still visible in front of the State House. One cruiser’s blue lights flickered in the darkness as people walked by the building, which just a few hours before had been off-limits to vehicles and pedestrian traffic.

The quiet scene was in stark contrast from earlier in the day when hundreds of police officers converged on the building and stood guard.

Jessica Rinaldi, Laura Crimaldi, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used in it.

As a precaution in case of any violence leading up to the inauguration, workers for Boston police erected metal barriers around the State House. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com.