RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County officials said their concerns about safety extend beyond the state Capitol grounds as police remain on alert for the potential of armed protests tied to Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Sheriff Gerald Baker said Monday he was encouraged the last couple of days have been peaceful in Raleigh, but his agency will continue to take precautions as the inauguration approaches.
“Law enforcement, the presence, is hopefully to deter and prevent crime from happening,” he said. “You prepare, but you still don’t know what’s gonna happen. And, the intel, sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.”
Matt Calabria, chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, said he was not aware of a specific threat to downtown Raleigh, but the FBI has alerted law enforcement of the potential for armed protests at Capitol buildings across the nation.
“Certainly, we have one data point with what happened in Washington, D.C. But, we are doing our best to prepare for the unexpected,” he said.
County officials have closed offices downtown Tuesday and Wednesday out of concern for safety. Calabria said that concern extends to courthouses and other government properties, adding that they could be targeted as well.
“We’re particularly worried because symbols of authority and places have authority have tended to be targeted,” he said. “If you have a government employee walking out of a government building with a government badge, that person could be singled out or targeted in some way.”
Gov. Roy Cooper mobilized 350 National Guard personnel to assist police in Raleigh. He’s authorized another 300 to travel to Washington, D.C., to help with security there.
Lt. Col. Jim McVeigh, commander of the 105th Engineer Battalion, said their mission involves helping police with security at the city’s Metro stations and ensuring people who do attend the inauguration are able to do so safely.
“I think the word we keep hearing is unprecedented, that we have this much support up here from North Carolina specifically,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure this is a peaceful process, the transfer of power, and then hopefully we can de-escalate and everyone can go home.”
The Associated Press reported that the FBI is vetting all of the roughly 25,000 National Guard personnel in Washington.
“I can tell you with certainty that we’ve all been screened and we’ve all been vetted and we’re all clear for our mission,” McVeigh said. “We understand the heightened security and the concerns. However, the FBI is doing their job and the North Carolina National Guard will continue to be here to do our job.”
He said the Guard did some training ahead of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte when preparations were still underway for a full-scale event. That helped them get ready for the work they’re doing now in Washington.
Calabria said as long as things remain peaceful in Raleigh, he anticipates government offices reopening Thursday. He said preparing for what this week may bring has brought unique challenges.
“This is particularly different because it goes to the peaceful transition of power. It’s about government itself,” he said. “Because it goes really to the core of who we are as Americans. It’s really different than the other issues that we’ve dealt with.”
Law enforcement agencies in Raleigh were prepared Sunday for potential protests, as social media chatter indicated that possibility on Jan. 17 specifically. Baker said he was still calculating the cost of his agency’s response but estimated it was in the tens of thousands of dollars.