Officials in state capitals across the country are bracing for a spillover from last week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, with legislatures already becoming targets for protesters in the tense days around the inauguration of the incoming president, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Gone is a large measure of the bonhomie that usually accompanies the annual start of the legislative season, replaced by marked unease over the possibility of armed attacks and gaps in security around statehouses that have long prided themselves on being open to constituents.
“Between Covid and the idea that there are people who are armed and making threats and are serious, it was definitely not your normal beginning of session,” said Senator Jennifer A. Jordan, a Democratic legislator in Georgia who watched the police officers assembled outside the State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday from her office window. “Usually folks are happy, talking to each other, and it did not have that feel.”
Dozens of state capitols will be on alert in the coming days, following calls among a mix of antigovernment organizations for actions in all 50 states on Jan. 17. Some of them come from far-right organizations that harbor a broad antigovernment agenda and have already been protesting state Covid-19 lockdowns since last spring. The F.B.I. this week sent a warning to local law enforcement agencies about the potential for armed protests in all 50 states.