MONTPELIER — The FBI has issued a warning that pro-Trump demonstrations by armed protesters have been planned in state capitals across the country in the days leading up to and including next week’s Inauguration Day. Subsequently, there have been reports of potential counter-protests in opposition to the possible planned protests.
Though details remain murky, demonstrations are expected at state capitols beginning Sunday and leading up to Biden’s succession of President Donald Trump on Wednesday. State officials hope to avoid the type of violence that occurred Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving a Capitol Police officer and four others dead.
The FBI has said it is tracking an “extensive amount of concerning online chatter, ” including calls for armed protests.
The mayor of Montpelier is urging protesters and counter-protesters to stay home this Sunday rather than gather at the Vermont Statehouse.
But Mayor Anne Watson is asking that anyone who does show up in Montpelier to leave their firearms at home.
“I know there have been calls for an armed insurrection, but we’re anticipating that if anyone does want to show up, we hope that they will be peaceful,” Watson said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio. “And having a peaceful protest means that there’s no need for firearms.”
She also urged protesters and counter protesters to “refrain from in-person direct counter-protesting, because that could lead to the risk of violence.”
Vermont law enforcement officials say they are aware of nationwide calls by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump for armed marches on all 50 state capitals this Sunday. But they say they are unaware of any specific plans by pro-Trump demonstrators to gather in Montpelier.
But others are planning to visit the Statehouse Sunday as counter-protesters.
The Vermont Democratic Party on Friday issued a statement discouraging participation in protests and counter-protests in the days leading up to and including next week’s Inauguration Day.
“We remain concerned about the aftermath of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an event that has culminated in multiple deaths and arrests, and we believe that such dangers have no place in Montpelier. Instead, we call for calm at this time,” the party said in a statement.
“We join the City of Montpelier in our wishes for the health, safety, and well-being of all as we look forward to Inauguration Day.”
Deb Billado, chair of the Vermont Republican Party, cautioned anyone taking part in demonstrations to remain peaceful, and not to bring anything that could be used as a weapon.
“While VT holds a proud tradition of a right to bear arms, doing so at this rally in our current climate in light of what happened last week would demonstrate an incredible lapse of judgement,” she said in a statement.
While the party supports the right to peacefully demonstrate, Billado said she knows of no Republicans who plan to attend any protests in Vermont, or would have interest in attending.
Meanwhile, state court officials announced Friday that in-person hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday should be conducted remotely or postponed following reports of potential violence around the presidential inauguration.
“The Judiciary is taking these precautionary steps to ensure continuity of operations and safety in light of reports that public gatherings during the federal inaugural week carry a risk of vandalism or violence in some parts of the country,” Patricia Gabel, the state court administrator, said in a news release.
Gabel said the court will inform parties who are affected of any changes to their hearing date or format. But in-person hearings could still be held in-person on those two days if they relate to emergency matters or proceedings that require face-to-face participation.