Police Prepare For Potentially Violent Protests
On Monday, the FBI warned of armed and potentially violent protests planned in all 50 state capitols starting this week, running through at least Inauguration Day on January 20. The FBI advised police agencies to increase security at statehouses around the country.
After the deadly attacks at the country’s capital last Wednesday that overwhelmed an unprepared Capitol police force, and with nationwide calls by pro-Trump groups to quote “storm” government buildings on Inauguration day, state and local police throughout the country are standing guard. Major Luis Hernandez, head of the special operations bureau for the New Mexico State police said his department is prepared for any distubances at the Roundhouse and throughout New Mexico.
“Any event that calls for violence we have to look at it very seriously, we don’t take it lightly," said Hernandez. "Events like what happened in Washington D.C., it’s an attack on our democracy and we can’t allow that to happen and we definitely are prepared to deal with whatever event may happen in the upcoming days especially involving our local state capitol or any of our local elected officials.”
Hernandez said the State Police depend on collaborations with local law enforcement agencies, pointing out that together with Santa Fe Police several potentially violent incidents were diffused during armed pro-Trump protests at the Roundhouse last week. He added that he believes State Police members would follow orders to quell any disturbances, regardless of their political views.
“We stand with a democracy and we have taken an oath to defend the constitution of the United States and the state of New Mexico so I can assure you that the officers are going to stand by that oath and make sure that our citizens are safe and make sure that our elected officials are safe and that our very own form of government is safe,” Hernandez said.
Five people have died as a result of the D.C. riots, including two Capitol police officers, one from injuries sustained by rioters and one by suicide. The deadly attack on Capitol police triggered several law enforcement and fire fighting agencies around the country to take administrative action against members who were part of the riots. Hernandez said that State Police officers can exercise their first amendment rights by attending political events in their personal time, but he is not aware of any New Mexico State Police officers who joined in the Capitol attacks.
"If any of our officers were found to have attended that, and they were attending it causing a riot instead of protesting and exercising their rights, I think we will definitely take a look at that,” he said.
The FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office spokesperson Frank Fisher said in an email to KUNM that all levels of law enforcement will work together with a focus on violent protesters who may threaten the safety of others or destroy property. Santa Fe Police said in an email that they are expecting quote “protests and free speech assemblies at or around the Roundhouse,” while Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jayme Fuller said her department is not preparing for special operations next week. KUNM reached out to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office but they did not respond.
Kaveh Mowahed contributed to this story.