Gov. Cuomo skipping Biden inauguration amid state capitol threats

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(WETM/AP) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he will not be attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20, 2021.

The Governor said his decision not to attend comes amid a rise in threats against state capitols following the insurrection in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6.

“There have been reports from law enforcement sources that there is talk of doing demonstrations at state capitols and they have done an advisory that state capitols should beware,” said Cuomo.

The Governor says that New York State Police have made preparations for potential demonstrations in Albany and that police are on stand-by.

“I think my place is to stay in New York State given this possible circumstance.”

Cuomo says he talked with President-elect Biden ahead of the ceremony to inform him that he will not be attending.

Though details remain murky, demonstrations are expected at state capitols beginning Sunday and leading up to Biden’s succession of President Donald Trump on Wednesday. State officials hope to avoid the type of violence that occurred Jan. 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, leaving a Capitol Police officer and four others dead.

The FBI has warned of the potential for violence at all state capitols and has said it is tracking an “ extensive amount of concerning online chatter, ” including calls for armed protests.

Governors across the country are sending thousands of National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., where the National Mall has been closed to the general public as part of an intense security effort. More than a dozen governors also have called out the Guard to protect their own state capitols and aid local law enforcement officers.

“We are prepared for the worst, but we remain hopeful that those who choose to demonstrate at our Capitol do so peacefully, without violence or destruction of property,” Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper said Friday, as Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Guard’s role.

Crews installed a six-foot fence around the Michigan Capitol ahead of expected protests, and ground-level windows were boarded up at a nearby building that houses the governor’s office. Gasper said an increased state police presence would remain at the statehouse at least through mid-February.

Some windows also were boarded at capitols in Wisconsin and Illinois, both of which activated the National Guard to help with security. Though the Wisconsin Capitol already was closed to the public because of the coronavirus, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration told those who had been coming into the Capitol to instead work remotely for the rest of the month.

Law enforcement officials were reducing parking around the capitol building in Madison this weekend and urging people to avoid the area as they braced for potential unrest. There was only one known organized event for the day, an anti-fascist demonstration where free food, drinks and clothes were to be distributed.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is mobilizing up to 1,000 National Guard members over concerns of civil unrest. State officials on Thursday erected a chain link fence around the Capitol, bolstering other temporary and permanent barriers. The California Highway Patrol is refusing to issue permits for rallies at the Capitol.

“We’re treating this very seriously and deploying significant resources to protect public safety, critical infrastructure and First Amendment Rights,” Newsom said in a video message. “But let me be clear: There will be no tolerance for violence.”

Other governors were encouraging people to stay away from capitol buildings during the coming days. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, closed the Capitol until after Biden’s inauguration and activated hundreds of National Guard members. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, said Friday that officials “decided to err on the side of caution” and close the Capitol from Monday through Wednesday.

Citing the possibility of armed protests, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday began a one-week restriction on public access to the Capitol. Only those who have business with the Legislature or governor’s office will be allowed inside, and they will have to provide an email showing they have a meeting or are testifying to a legislative committee.

Kelly and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf closed their Capitol buildings for a couple days next week, coinciding with the presidential inauguration. The Pennsylvania Capitol complex already had been closed to the general public because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the new order advises state employees who work in person to take off Tuesday and Wednesday; Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“While we are not aware of any specific threats at this time, we want to act with an abundance of caution to keep employees safe,” Wolf’s administration said on its website.

Uncertainty heading into the weekend was a common theme among state officials and law enforcement officers. Many were enhancing security based on past demonstrations or general warnings but without specific expectations about how many protesters, if any, would show up outside state capitol buildings in the coming days.

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