National Guard, ‘Strong Police Presence' to Defend Pennsylvania Capitol

Most Capitol employees under Gov. Tom Wolf's jurisdiction currently work remotely, and the ornate building is closed to the general public because of the coronavirus pandemic

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A few hundred members of the Pennsylvania National Guard will be brought in to protect the state Capitol and other potential targets of unrest and violence in the week ahead, authorities said.

Law enforcement leaders said plans to handle any potential violence toward the Capitol include blocking off streets in Harrisburg and using helicopters, drones and horse-mounted officers.

“The Pennsylvania Capitol Police has the full support of Pennsylvania State Police and access to the significant resources we bring to bear,” state police Lt. Col. Scott Price said during an online briefing.

SkyForce 10 flew over Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware state capitols and other important buildings Saturday. Barricades and fences were present, but there were few signs of activity.

The focus of law enforcement officials' plans is on Sunday, when armed marches to statehouses around the country by supporters of President Donald Trump could occur. Police said they know of no specific threat to the Pennsylvania Capitol but are taking precautions because of what they called generalized intelligence.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the Pennsylvania Capitol closed for two days next week around the swearing-in of three statewide officials and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Wolf announced Friday he was sending about 1,000 more National Guard troops to help with Biden's inauguration this coming Wednesday. Wolf had previously deployed about 1,000 to Washington.

The Harrisburg complex is already closed to the general public because of the coronavirus pandemic, and most Capitol employees under Wolf’s jurisdiction currently work remotely. But the new order advises employees who report to work in person to take off Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday is a 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 Office of Administration said on its website.

This weekend, Harrisburg city leaders announced more specific closures for Sunday, naming two streets near the capitol building.

"Expect to see strong police presence throughout Harrisburg," the city said in a follow-up tweet. "This includes the Capitol police, the State Police, Harrisburg Police, police from surrounding municipalities and the PA National Guard."

Tuesday will be the swearing-in of three statewide elected officials: Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Auditor General-elect Tim DeFoor and Treasurer-elect Stacy Garrity. Biden is being inaugurated Wednesday in Washington.

Meanwhile, the state Senate said its offices will close for five days, Saturday through Wednesday, a decision made in consultation with law enforcement.

In recent days, Capitol Police have tried to become more visible inside and outside of the building, and have erected orange plastic barriers, in light of last week's violent siege of the U.S. Capitol.

State capitols around the United States have heightened security after the attack in Washington. The FBI has warned there are calls for armed protests at statehouses and in Washington on Sunday and ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

The thigh-high orange plastic barriers are keeping pedestrians away from walkways and side doors. Two heavily armed officers were stationed outside Thursday, and another was patrolling hallways in the largely vacant Main Capitol.

Shapiro said his agents and prosecutors were working with federal authorities on the investigation into the U.S. Capitol riot.

“We know the difference between protests and violence," Shapiro said Thursday. "Anyone who attempts to be violent, break or destroy state property, or bring harm or destruction to the Harrisburg community — or any community across Pennsylvania — will be held accountable.”


Cities across the country are increasing their security ahead of next week's presidential inauguration. NBC10's Aaron Baskerville takes a look at the security efforts in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, officials said they are not aware of any specific or credible threats but added security personnel to protect historical and city-owned buildings, and the district attorney warned that those who intend to target the Capitol would expose themselves to state charges beyond the reach of any presidential pardon.

“We ain’t having Nazis in Philly. Its not happening. I don’t care what flavor of Nazi you think you are,” Krasner said.

The city's police department and district attorney's office are coordinating alongside state and federal partners to prepare, he and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

"Police personnel will be placed at strategic locations throughout the city to ensure historic landmarks and other government buildings are protected," Outlaw said.

She added that officers will be on standby to respond to any threats or civil unrest. At this time, she said, police are aware of a protest happening Sunday, but the demonstration is expected to be small and of no major concern.

“While we continue to hope and pray for peace and safety leading up to and after Inauguration Day, we must also plan and prepare for every alternative that could come our way, just as we did leading up to the general election in November,” Mayor Jim Kenney said.

The city is not advising business owners to board up their establishments at this time, but officials will keep people updated if that guidance changes, he noted.

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