ST. PAUL — State public safety officials said they're preparing for protests and possible violence at the Minnesota Capitol complex over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington on Thursday, Jan. 14, said the complex remains safe but urged visitors and those conducting business in the area to consider visiting another time, if possible.
State and federal officials have reported threats of violence against the Capitol and Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday activated the Minnesota National Guard to protect the Capitol against reports of planned violence from far-right extremist groups. The state Department of Public Safety, State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and other local law enforcement were set to work with them.
Troopers and officers will have a visible presence at the Capitol, Harrington said, and traffic will be limited around the building. Two events have been permitted to take place at the Capitol grounds this weekend: a "Freedom Fest" rally of around 150 participants on Saturday and a church service expected to draw about 20 on Sunday.
Both events were scheduled by the leader of a "Storm the Capitol" event that took place outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. The event didn't result in violence, but speakers spoke about violence and possible "casualties" as they and other supporters of President Donald Trump push back against Biden's victory and transition to elected office.
“We will continue to track and monitor reports of any individuals or groups that are not interested in a peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights so we can respond accordingly,” Harrington said in a news release. “We have been working with our law enforcement partners to develop a coordinated and comprehensive plan to guard the Capitol and protect state employees, visitors and peaceful protestors from harm."
A fence surrounding the Capitol building is set to remain in place over the weekend and access to the building and others on the complex is set to remain strictly limited due to COVID-19 and public safety concerns.
Public safety officials asked those in the area to call 911 if they see suspicious activity in the area.