State, city law enforcement brace for potential unrest at Wisconsin Capitol

State National Guard troops have arrived at the Capitol building out of precaution.
State National Guard troops have arrived at the Capitol building out of precaution.(wmtv)
Published: Jan. 17, 2021 at 1:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It has been a quiet morning at the Wisconsin State Capitol, but law enforcement agencies are preparing for the worst.

Wisconsin National Guard troops were seen today around the Capitol Square in anticipation for potential armed protests, though authorities have said there are no specific threats.

A spokesperson for the Dept. of Administration sent NBC15 a statement Sunday saying quote: “Given the current threats of civil unrest across the country, we are grateful today was peaceful. We would like to thank our public safety partners for coming together as a proactive cautionary measure to protect the public and our State Capitol. The Capitol will maintain an increased law enforcement presence as we continue to monitor this evolving situation.”

The Deputy Dir. of Public Affairs for the Wisconsin National Guard, Maj. Joe Trovato, said they are serving in a support role to the Capitol Police, but would not disclose further details for security reasons.

The FBI has warned of the potential for armed protests at the nation’s Capitol and all 50 state capitol buildings beginning this weekend. Some social media messages had targeted Sunday for demonstrations, though it remained unclear how many people might show up.

The head of the Wisconsin Capitol Police told state lawmakers to stay away from the Capitol building this weekend.

Chief David Erwin suggested that they remove any personal information from social media accounts due to threats of unrest at capitols in all 50 states.

He told lawmakers in a Thursday memo obtained by The Associated Press that they were “not aware of specific credible threats to legislators,” but that “there continues to be active social media commentary regarding the threat of ongoing unrest.”

Madison Police Department Public Information Officer Tyler Grigg told NBC15 the department will have enhanced staffing capacity availability as needed to address protest activity.

“We will have elevated and robust staffing levels today and for any future protest related activity,” Grigg said in a statement Sunday.

The Madison Police Department and Dane County Sheriff’s Office are assisting the National Guard and Capitol Police.

“Our staff are monitoring the protests and are committed to ensuring freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, we have teams prepared to address any violent activities that hinder peaceable assembly,” Dane Co. Sheriff Dave Mahoney said Sunday in a statement.

While Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl said there is no specific threat to Wisconsin’s capital city, businesses along downtown Madison’s square took precautions Friday ahead of any potential unrest into the weekend and through inauguration day.

Workers also covered the first-floor windows of the capitol on Monday.

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