Sacramento: Authorities standing by for possible pro-Trump protests, violence – Press-Enterprise


SACRAMENTO — Armed demonstrations did not materialize Sunday at the California state Capitol despite calls from far-right activists inviting Donald Trump’s supporters to protest the recent presidential election results.

MAGA hats and Trump flags, visible throughout the crowd that attacked the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6, were not seen in significant numbers on Sunday. As of the early afternoon, no demonstrations had occurred in Sacramento before a strong National Guard presence ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying M4 carbine rifles with extra magazines of ammunition tucked inside their vests guarded several blocks around the Capitol as law enforcement officials braced for potential unrest.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re at a place where we feel we are in an occupied, militarized city here in the capital of California,” said Mike Powell, who was waiting to have brunch at a restaurant a block from the Capitol.

Soldiers also were posted at nearby state buildings, including the departments of agriculture and education.

By early afternoon, the largest demonstration in the area seemingly was three men with anti-Trump signs standing on the backside of the Capitol.

Twins James and John Pitocco, 63, said they participate in protests every weekend when it does not rain or they find work in construction.

“If we didn’t do this we’d go crazy,” said James, who held a sign that read, “Trump — King of the Goons.”

“I’m living in a Democracy but 74 million people don’t seem to know what that means,”  he added.

Mostly, though, the day was filled with people taking advantage of spring-like weather to walk their dogs and stroll through Capitol Park beyond the barricades and fences.

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Anthony Gonzalez, 60, headed toward his church, the historic Cathedral of Blessed Sacraments.

“It’s kind of a shame that we have to live this way now,” he said. “You have to watch your back. You see it in other countries and wouldn’t think it would happen here.”

John Cameron, 54, walked around the Capitol grounds that often draws crowds on blue-sky days as beautiful as Sunday. He lamented the fortress-like scene while standing outside the fencing.

“We already have to watch out for the virus, so it’s a lot,” Cameron said of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sacramento police reported in the late morning that although no active demonstrations were underway, the large law enforcement presence would continue.

“We are committed to the safety of our community and will continue to honor our mission during these events as they arise,” said a tweet from Sacramento police.

A similarly quiet scene was reported Sunday around the U.S. Capitol. A Jan. 6 rally in support of the president’s false claims of election fraud turned into a violent insurrection, when rioters stormed the Capitol, attacking police officers and causing destruction inside the building.

Since the attack, authorities have barricaded a large area around the Capitol in advance of the inauguration Wednesday. Alerts have also gone out to all 50 state capitals, warning of possible protests and violence.

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called up the California National Guard to help fortify the Capitol in anticipation of potential armed protests. The order followed security measures instituted in Washington, D.C., after the insurrection, which spurred President Trump’s second impeachment.

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California authorities erected six-foot-high fencing around the Capitol and have deployed a visibly increased presence of the California Highway Patrol, whose Capitol Protection Section oversees its defenses.

Newsom’s order authorized the deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard personnel.

“What we witnessed in our nation’s capital was an undemocratic and an unconscionable assault on our republic,” Newsom said in a video announcing the action. “California will take every necessary measure to protect public safety and our democratic principles and to ensure that those disgraceful actions are not repeated here.”

That followed similar actions at state capitals including those in Washington state, Texas and Georgia, where National Guard or state troops now become a ubiquitous presence. Authorities in all 50 states prepared for possible unrest ahead of the inauguration on Wednesday, according to reports.

The CHP denied a permit for a pro-Trump rally in front of the state Capitol requested for Sunday and cleared its calendar of any permitted events for the weekend. According to The Sacramento Bee, the CHP cited both COVID-19 gathering restrictions and potential civil unrest for its decision.

An announced protest at the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco earlier this week, over the decision to deactivate Trump’s account, drew one person.

State legislators have been on heightened alert since the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, in which a riotous pro-Trump mob breached and ransacked the grounds and numerous Congressional offices to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote formalizing Biden’s election. The insurrection ended with the deaths of five people, including a Capitol police officer, and was immediately etched into history as one of the most infamous days of American democracy.

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