Security heightened in Richmond as Virginia General Assembly session begins

With the FBI warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, security has been heightened in Richmond for the start of Virginia’s 2021 legislative session Wednesday.

Multiple state and local agencies activated a unified command in the Richmond region from which they are actively monitoring the situation. Participating agencies include the Virginia Capitol Police, the Richmond Police Department, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

“Any violation of law, non-peaceful demonstration, or attempts to intimidate fellow Virginians will not be tolerated,” the agencies said in a joint statement. “Those who engage in such behavior will be held accountable.”

Like last year, lawmakers will not meet at the Virginia State Capitol as they normally would for a legislative session. To avoid mass gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, the House of Delegates will conduct business remotely and the Virginia Senate will meet at a museum in Richmond.

An internal FBI bulletin warned that nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“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 read.

The FBI issued at least one other bulletin to law enforcement nationwide before the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol building last week. On Dec. 29, the bureau had warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures.

The FBI said it wasn’t focused on peaceful protests but “on those threatening their safety and the safety of other citizens with violence and destruction of property.”

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that the Guard is also looking at any issues across the country.

“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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