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DPS Commissioner: No credible threats to state Capitol, but ready if something arises

Local and state law enforcement officials have a plan in case a threat arises.

There is "no credible, local threat" in Minnesota ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, but local and state law enforcement are prepared for anything that may happen, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Friday.

Local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as the Minnesota National Guard, have been preparing for the potential of anti-government violence in St. Paul, including at the Minnesota State Capitol, in the days leading up to the inauguration in Washington, D.C.

"To all of those who have and will come to the Capitol, to speak their piece, we will be here to make sure that your voices can be heard," Harrington said at a Friday news conference with Gov. Tim Walz and other state and local officials about safety at the Capitol. "But I want there to not be any mistake, if you come to the Capitol with criminal intent on your mind, if you come to the Capitol to commit violent crimes, we will stop you. We will hold you accountable.

"There are still no credible threats to the Minnesota State Capitol," he added.

This comes after an FBI memo on Dec. 29, 2020, said there are "credible threats" that the Minnesota State Capitol is a target of the right-wing extremist group the "Boogaloo Bois" rally on Jan. 17. It was also reported that an FBI memo warned "armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols" between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20.

Harrington said the memo is now "pretty dated material," noting that doesn't mean there wasn't a threat back in December. That information from the FBI drove DPS' response to the "Storm the Capitol" rally at the state Capitol on Jan. 6, which was held at the same time as the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

Although the St. Paul rally was peaceful, the rhetoric used by some speakers was apparently so threatening that the Minnesota State Patrol – for the first time in history – went into the governor's residence and removed Walz's 14-year-old son to a safe place while he cried wondering where his dog was, Gov. Tim Walz said during the virtual event hosted by the Forum News Service on Monday. 

Harrington said since that late December memo, "circumstances have changed" and federal, state and local authorities have found "no credible, local threat" as of now. 

Despite that, Harrington said DPS has been working with the St. Paul Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota National Guard, as well as the FBI and Homeland Security, to have up-to-the-minute information about threats the state may face and to develop a plan so they're prepared to protect the state Capitol and surrounding areas if a threat does arise.

“We have looked at all the different vulnerabilities around the Capitol and around possible attacks, and no matter how small or how large, we have taken the right steps to stop that from happening," Harrington said. "No detail has been overlooked. We have got a plan that is both robust, it is resilient.” 

People who are near the Capitol in the coming days will notice the chain-link fence from over the summer is still around the building (it's also closed to visitors due to COVID-19) and traffic patterns in the area have been shifted. There will also be more state troopers, as well as National Guard members and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, patrolling the Capitol Complex. 

The group that planned the "Storm the Capitol" rally in St. Paul on Jan. 6 does have two events planned at the state Capitol this weekend. A "Freedom Fest" on Saturday and a "Sunday Church Service" on Sunday.

Meanwhile, DPS is asking Minnesotans who don't have any planned activity or business at the state Capitol to consider visiting at another time. Because of this, the Minnesota History Center at the State Capitol Complex will be closed this weekend. Meanwhile, the United States Postal Service said Friday that it's temporarily removing four blue collection boxes "as a security measure to protect the mail and the public."

Harrington said law enforcement is also prepared to protect and respond to any potential secondary targets, such as other government buildings, noting the chatter has been related to anti-government violence.

Following threats to lawmakers and previous protests outside legislators' homes, Harrington said law enforcement "stands ready" to protect them at the Capitol or at their homes. DPS has been in contact with police chiefs across the state to be ready to respond to protests in their communities. 

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota National Guard Adj. Gen. Shawn Manke, Minnesota State Patrol Chief Col. Matt Langer, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also spoke during Friday's news conference. 

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