“Stay away from downtown.”

The warning has gone out over social media platforms following last week’s seizure of the U.S. Capitol by an armed mob supporting outgoing president Donald Trump’s claim that the Nov. 3 election was stolen from him. 

National news entities have reportedly obtained internal documents from the FBI warning of armed protests at all 50 state capitols throughout the country in the days leading up to the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and his VP-elect, Kamala Harris, who will be the nation’s first Black person and first woman to serve in that capacity.

California’s State Capitol building is located in the heart of downtown Sacramento, along with numerous other city, county, state, and federal government offices. The FBI documents reportedly warn law enforcement agencies that extremist groups plan to “storm” government offices and target lawmakers, as they did in D.C. on January 6, if Trump is removed from office, and call for increased security at such locations.

“To be clear, the brutality the American people watched with shock and disbelief on the 6th will not be tolerated by the FBI,” an official was quoted as saying.

 Locally, law enforcement at the State Capitol is the responsibility of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), as it is at all state property. The CHP handles security for the governor and other state officials.

The California Highway Patrol’s Director of Communications, Fran Clader offered the following statement on behalf of Commissioner Amanda Ray.

“CHP Officers are always vigilant for potential threats that may occur at the State Capitol. We have personnel ready to respond to protect state property and ensure public safety as necessary.  The CHP closely coordinates with allied agencies like the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department where jurisdictional boundaries meet or if mutual aid is requested. Beyond that, the CHP does not comment on matters involving security.

Participants in last week’s deadly siege were shown to have been carrying guns and zip ties, indicating a plan, or at the very least a willingness, to cause harm or take hostages. On the day of the incident, Trump supporters were seen circling downtown Sacramento in vehicles adorned with Trump’s Make America Great Again messaging and Confederate flags. Black state workers took to social media, expressing concerns for their safety and advising others to avoid coming downtown unless it was absolutely necessary.

“The California Highway Patrol and Capitol security is prepared for any unrest at the State Capitol,” said Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

“What happened in D.C. was unacceptable. There was a complete lack of leadership and command at the US Capitol. California’s Capitol will be protected, as it has been throughout many protests over the past nine months,” Cooper continued.

Protests in May, following the death of George Floyd were held at the State Capitol and spilled into other areas of the city as well. There has been much comment from the Black community about the differences in law enforcement response.

While COVID-19 has limited the number of people visiting or doing business at the Capitol building, it’s not completely empty these days, and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) is supporting efforts for increased security.  

“The divisive events happening around our nation are both upsetting and saddening,” McCarty said in a statement. “As the Assemblymember representing our state’s Capitol, I’m working with our security officials and CHP, who are coordinating efforts and taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our residents and the Capitol building.”

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer