More North Olympic Peninsula law enforcement officers will be on duty on Inauguration Day as a precautionary measure despite no known threats of violence, sheriff’s office and police department officials in Clallam and Jefferson counties said Thursday.
Amid multiple media reports of a Jan. 8 FBI bulletin warning of armed right-wing extremists marching in state capitols from Sunday through Wednesday, they will beef up their uniformed presence in the Clallam County courthouse and with extra officers on duty in Port Townsend.
“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 FBI bulletin said, according to The Associated Press.
Brian King, Clallam County chief criminal deputy. said extra staffing of the courthouse was not necessarily a result of the FBI bulletin. He said other jurisdictions across the state are also ramping up their security despite the FBI”s focus on state centers of government.
“There is no specific threat that has been identified,” he said. “But we are certainly prepared to respond.
“There’s going to be a significant presence over the normal security process,” he said.
“We will have an increased presence daily and up until the Inauguration.
“We want to reduce people’s anxiety locally by letting people know we are prepared.”
King said concerns over violence in Washington state are also centered on the I-5 corridor and on federal buildings.
King and Jefferson County Sheriff Joe Nole said they are unaware of any protests planned on the North Olympic Peninsula over Joe Biden’s swearing in as the nation’s 46th president.
They were in the same virtual meeting Wednesday with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to review safety concerns and measures taken as the inauguration approaches.
Nole declined to say if more officers would be staffing the Jefferson County courthouse, cautious because the information “could come back to haunt us,” he said.
“We are as ready as we can be for any instance that might present itself.
“We don’t have any intelligence to indicate there is any planned activity, not that there doesn’t mean there could be activity.
“We want to be prepared with what may happen, but we don’t want to turn it into a big deal, either.”
Extra officers in PT
Port Townsend Police Chief Troy Surber said extra officers will be on duty.
“Their responsibilities will be focused around the time of the inauguration,” he said.
Port Angeles Deputy Police Chief Jason Viada said Thursday no additional measures have been planned for city hall, located across East Fourth Street from the courthouse.
“The primary concern has been focused on not only the nation’s capitol but also the capitols of the 50 states,” he said.
“Obviously, there’s universal concern about what we continue to learn about.”
Nole and King said they have been in regular contact with the Washington State Fusion Center, a unified counterterrorism agency that supports “the public safety and homeland security missions of state, local, tribal agencies and private sector entities,” according to the website at wsfc.wa.gov.
Tight security measures, including an 8-foot-tall fence, will remain in place at the state capital in Olympia through Inauguration Day due to “evolving intelligence on security threats” to all 50 state capitals and the U.S. Capitol and recent “illegal and dangerous actions” in at the state Capitol campus, State Patrol spokesman Chris Loftis said Tuesday in a press release.
King said authorities assessing threats rely largely on internet chatter and social media discussions, “all those things that link people to people.”
Nole said authorities are finding evidence that foreign governments are spreading false information online that the antifascist leftist movement antifa was involved in the Jan. 6 riots “to keep stirring up the American public.”
Nole said Facebook and other social media indicates the rioters were supporters of President Donald Trump, who was impeached Wednesday by the House of Representatives for “incitement of insurrection” in a speech he gave earlier that day, when rioters invaded the Capitol to disrupt certification of the presidential election results. Trump faces a Senate trial expected to begin next week.
Nole has heard few concerns from the public related to potential violence in Jefferson County in the wake of what some are calling an insurrection.
One county resident whose gun was seized following a domestic violence incident wanted it back, citing the mayhem.
“He wanted to be able to protect his house the day after the riot in D.C.,” Nole recalled.
“Another man wanted to talk to me because he was afraid I was going to take people’s guns away.”
A third man offered to help at the courthouse after the attack on the nation’s Capitol.
“He has technical radio skills,” Nole said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].