Delaware police agencies stand ready for any security threats in Dover

A Delaware National Guardsmen, 153 Military Police Company, stand in a line at the U.S. Capitol, Washington Saturday. National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from several other states have traveled to the National Capital Region to provide support to federal and district authorities leading up to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alyssa Lisenbe)

DOVER — Delaware Capitol Police are prepared to respond to any safety and security threats if demonstrations similar to the violent incidents around the U.S. Capitol last week erupt in the First State, Chief Michael Hertzfeld said Monday.

“The tragic event that occurred at the U.S. Capitol last week is both disheartening and disturbing. We are currently monitoring available intelligence regarding any threat to the state capitol facility and will maintain an operational posture for any event based on the current threat environment,” he said in a statement.

“The Delaware Capitol Police are trained, equipped and prepared to meet any challenges that may arise to protect our elected officials, their staff and employees, and to anyone who visit the state capitol complex.”

Delaware State Police on Monday said that incident operation plans are in place if demonstrations similar to the violent incidents surface.

According to spokeswoman Master Cpl. Heather Pepper, “We continually work with our federal, state, and local partners in preparation for events such as rallies, protests, and demonstrations.

“The Delaware State Police remain vigilant by monitoring national, regional, and local intel. We also work and plan with our national, state, and local state partners and deploy assets and personnel as needed.

“We stay committed to maintaining the Delaware State Police’s mission statement of enhancing the quality of life for all Delaware citizens and visitors by providing professional, competent and compassionate law enforcement services.”

On Monday, Gov. John Carney spokesman Jon Starkey said the office was aware of “protests planned in Dover, around Legislative Hall. Law enforcement will monitor conditions on the ground.”

A Delaware National Guardsmen stands watch over the Capitol, at the United States Capitol, Washington D.C., Saturday.

Dover Police are sharing related information with other law enforcement agencies, spokesman Sgt. Mark Hoffman said Monday.

The Delaware National Guard reported that more than 200 members had been deployed to the Washington area to support ongoing security and safety efforts with an eye on the days leading up to the 2021 presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. The aim is to support federal and district authorities, according to the DNG on Facebook.

On Saturday, the Delaware NAACP State Conference of Branches condemned the actions of protesters in Washington on Jan. 6 and called for the state of Delaware to immediately institute:

• A special security team assigned to increase the protection of U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper and Chris Coons and State Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

• The requirement that all police agencies in the state of Delaware have a written plan to respond to civil unrest in incremental stages.

• Adequate funding be provided to all police agencies throughout Delaware to ensure ongoing training for appropriate and fair response to civil unrest.

According to the Associated Press, state capitols across the nation stepped up security Monday, deploying National Guard units, SWAT teams and extra police officers as several legislatures convened amid heightened safety concerns.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee activated hundreds of National Guard troops to help state police keep order at the state Capitol and defend security fencing. At least two people were arrested, including a woman who, according to state police, used a recreational vehicle to block a roadway and refused to comply with orders to move.

Later, about 20 people gathered outside the security fencing, including a man who tried to walk past authorities as lawmakers were to begin their session. He was taken into custody after shouting “I have every right to witness this.”

At the Georgia Capitol, a state patrol SWAT team walked the perimeter wearing fatigues and carrying rifles while lawmakers gathered inside for the start of a two-year term.

Legislatures convened in more than half a dozen states. Because of concerns about the coronavirus, many state capitols had already adopted procedures to curb the potential for large crowds, including arranging for lawmakers to meet remotely. Those steps greatly reduced the number of people who are actually working in capitol buildings.

After insurrectionists backing President Donald Trump overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, some governors and lawmakers began ramping up security because of online threats suggesting that more mobs could target state capitols.

In Idaho, doors to the House and Senate chambers were locked Monday morning, and two Idaho state troopers were stationed at each entrance. In past years, the doors were propped open while an unarmed statehouse staff member controlled access.

A Delaware National Guardsman grab MREs for breakfast talk, at the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C., Saturday.

During a special session last August, a group of people including anti-government activist Ammon Bundy forced their way past overwhelmed troopers and filled the Idaho House gallery despite COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of people allowed in. The group called People’s Rights was founded by Bundy and opposes the restrictions. Its leaders were urging members to show up Monday at the Capitol.

Glen Thorne of Buhl, Idaho, about a two-hour drive to the southeast of Boise, wore a handgun in a holster on his right hip Monday at the Capitol. Openly carrying weapons in the building is legal.

Thorne said he wanted to make sure Republican Gov. Brad Little “knows that we’re here.”

“We want to end the state of emergency for Idaho. It’s ridiculous. We all want to go back to a normal state of living,” Thorne said. He did not think the group would cause trouble.

“This is Idaho. We’re all gun-carrying, respectful Republicans,” he said.

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and other officials approved construction of a fence around the Capitol last year after racial injustice protests. Kemp has kept a group of National Guard soldiers on active duty to protect state properties since last summer, when protesters smashed windows and set a fire at state public safety headquarters in Atlanta.

Inslee activated 750 members of the National Guard. On the same day as the deadly riot in Washington, D.C., a group of armed people broke down a gate outside the governor’s mansion in Olympia, Washington, and made it to the porch and front yard before being convinced to leave by police.

On Monday, lawmakers had to drive through an area gated off and guarded by the National Guard to park outside the Capitol. A small group of protesters gathered in the morning, shouting that they should be let inside the building to observe lawmakers.

“It’s a sad day for our country, isn’t it, where you have to have that kind of security around the people who were elected to represent you,” Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer said. “Unfortunately, we live in troubling times, and I do believe we’re going to get through it, but it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort.”

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that both the pandemic protocols, plus the security concerns, will make lawmakers’ work more difficult, but he said that “people are counting on us to pass budgets and laws that help them in their daily life.”

In Michigan, where armed demonstrators against coronavirus restrictions entered the Capitol last year, a state commission was considering a policy change that could limit guns inside the building. Michigan lawmakers return to session Wednesday.

Some of the anti-government extremists accused in a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had attended the lockdown protests. Prosecutors say the accused ringleader initially talked of recruiting 200 men to storm the building, take hostages and “execute tyrants.”

A secondary plan involved locking exits and setting the statehouse on fire, according to court documents.