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Alabama officials watching for possible armed protests

The Montgomery Police Department will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, girding for potentially violent demonstrations.

A view of the state Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama. (STOCK PHOTO)

It wasn’t clear Friday whether armed protestors would show up at Alabama’s Capitol building this weekend after an FBI internal report this week warned that there were plans for armed demonstrations in state capitals across the country until Inauguration Day.

First reported by ABC News and corroborated by numerous other news outlets, the FBI’s memo warns that continued violence targeting state capitols remains possible between now and President-elect-Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to the Associated Press

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency spokeswoman Robyn Bryan, in a message to APR on Friday, said the agency continues to monitor activity for public safety concerns “and possible threats related to the ongoing protests across the nation.” 

“ALEA recognizes that United States Citizens have constitutionally protected rights to assemble, speak, and petition the government. ALEA safeguards these first amendment rights, and reports on only those activities where the potential use of rhetoric and/or propaganda could be used to carry out acts of violence,” Bryan continued. “Additionally, potential criminality exhibited by certain members of a group does not negate the constitutional rights of the group itself or its law-abiding participants to exercise their individual liberties under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.” 

The Montgomery Police Department on Friday issued a warning in a tweet to anyone who might plan to bring a firearm to a demonstration. 

“Be mindful that it shall be unlawful for any person, other than a law enforcement officer, to have a firearm in his or her possession or in any vehicle at a point within 1,000 feet of a demonstration at a public place,” the department said in the tweet, citing a portion of Alabama’s state law.

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Montgomery Police will have officers at the Capitol on Sunday, Capt. Saba Coleman of the Montgomery Police Department said in a message to APR on Friday.  

“It’s no exaggeration to say that Trump’s army of domestic terrorists came close to mounting the first successful coup in American history,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, speaking to reporters Friday during a briefing on a report the group released on right-wing extremists attempting to overshadow Biden’s inauguration.

“Now our nation stands at the edge of the abyss. Threats of violence are steadily escalating, with some of Trump’s followers talking openly of civil war. Law enforcement personnel are bracing for potential violence this weekend at the armed protests planned for Washington D.C. and all 50 state capitals,” Huang said. 

Michael Hayden, lead investigative reporter at the SPLC, told reporters during the briefing that the odds for violence “are a lot higher than I’ve seen in a long time.” 

“And that’s largely to do with the rhetoric that we’re seeing,” Hayden said. 

The chances of far-right extreme groups coming together for another large event in Washington D.C. in the coming days is less likely because of the additional security measures in place since the Capitol attack, Hayden said, adding that leaders of some of the larger extremist groups have urged followers not to go to Washington D.C. 

“I’m not saying it’s impossible to generate a large crowd in Washington D.C. I’m just saying that there are huge obstacles that they did not face on January 6, and it’s missing that sort of galvanizing moment of the Trump rally,” Hayden said. 

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Demonstrations at state capitols are far more likely to galvanize crowds, Hayden said. In his work monitoring extremists online he has seen the sharing of maps of state capitols, dotted with pinpoints where groups want people to go, he said. 

Some states have publicized bolstered security around their capitols, a sign that perhaps those state officials have more information about possible threats than SPLC has access to, Hayden said.

Written By

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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