Online threats prompt Virginia Capitol Police to ramp up security ahead of Lobby Day, Inauguration

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — State Capitol buildings could become targets of violence after last week’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Virginia Capitol Police confirmed Monday that the department is increasing security measures ahead of next week’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., and Lobby Day in Richmond.

There are eight days left until President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn into office and, according to an internal FBI Bulletin discussed with The Associated Press, armed protests are being planned at all 50 State Capitol buildings in the coming days.

Although specific details of security plans can’t be released by law enforcement, Virginia Capitol Police say they’re preparing for every possible scenario.

The chaos at the U.S. Capitol unfolded on Wednesday, Jan. 6, when rioters swarmed the legislative building, leaving multiple people dead. Three people suffered medical emergencies; a woman was shot and killed; and Brain Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer for 12 years who resided in Virginia, died from injuries he sustained during the riot.

Another Capitol Police officer, Howard Liebengood, died off-duty on Saturday, Jan. 9.

In recent days several social media platforms have banned President Donald Trump for inciting violence and in attempts of deterring further violence. Twitter released its reasoning behind their decision to ban the Commander in Chief, citing credible threats made against State Capitol buildings planned for Jan. 17.

As possible attacks loom, Virginia Capitol Police are reassessing their plans and beefing up security ahead of Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, which means more officers and resources.

Joe Macenka, a spokesperson for Virginia Capitol Police, says the department is meeting with U.S. Capitol Police, the FBI, Virginia State Police, and Richmond Police every hour to ensure public safety.

“Because it’s a State Capitol, we understand that it’s a high targeted area and that’s part of the job,” Macenka said. “It’s been a constant planning thing going on around here. We’re just making sure we’re ready and prepared for all possible scenarios.”

On top of the national crisis, Virginia Capitol officers are also preparing for Lobby Day in Richmond. The annual event where Virginians meet with legislators to make their voices heard is happening on Jan. 18, just two days before the Inauguration.

Last year, approximately 22,000 gun rights advocates peacefully assembled at the Capitol. However, with last week’s deadly riot in D.C., active threats against State Capitol buildings and COVID-19 restrictions, Macenka says things will be different this year.

“Because of the Governor’s executive order there will be strict limitations on how many people can gather,” Macenka said.

He goes on to say that groups must have a permit to convene on Capitol grounds and can only assemble in groups of 10 or less. Participants will also need to practice social distancing guidelines. Due to these restrictions, Macenka told WFXR’s sister station in Richmond he expects more activity around the streets of Capitol Square this year compared to years in the past.

Sister station WRIC reached out to the Department of General Services to learn how many permits have been accepted for Lobby Day and are waiting for an exact number.

WFXR’s sister station also reached out to Richmond Police to see if the department plans to enforce Mayor Stoney’s new legislation banning firearms near permitted events. RPD responded, stating public safety is their top priority and officials will release more information in the coming days.

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