D.C. riots in mind, N.C. law enforcement plans for inauguration Saturday
Posted January 7, 2021 6:50 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2021 9:52 a.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — The unsettling events in Washington, D.C. – the storming of the Capitol by a group of President Donald Trump's supporters who climbed scaffolding and ransacked offices – come just days before the planned transfer of power in North Carolina.
Law enforcement leaders are planning to protect but are hoping for calm at the State Capitol Saturday, when Gov. Roy Cooper will be sworn in for a second term.
With the potential for protests – against Cooper for his actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic and against the presidential election that ousted Trump – Col. Glenn McNeill of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is coordinating with other agencies to keep people and property safe, including the state buildings in downtown Raleigh.
“We are going to immediately assess our vulnerabilities, our resources [and] our manpower and we will make — and we did make — adjustments,” McNeill said.
"We’re trying to balance protecting freedoms of speech but also ensuring public safety.”
In Washington, North Carolinians who went to rally for Trump found more than they bargained for.
“We saw tear gas. Well, we heard two booms, and it was tear gas and flash bangs, apparently,” said Luke Smith, of Wendell.
Smith and Aaron Alexander, of Durham, drove together to see Trump speak. They were standing about 100 yards from the Capitol when rioters breached the House chamber.
“I don’t necessarily agree with just busting in, but at the same time, I do understand how a lot of those people were feeling, " Alexander said, "when you are constantly going to these events and supporting the president, and there is nothing good said about what he’s doing, even when you are seeing him do things that are saving your life.”
Both Triangle men expect the riots to spur more protests in North Carolina over pandemic-related shutdowns, which Smith said are unnecessary.
“Nobody is telling you to come to the places, just don’t shut them down,” he said.
The Raleigh Police Department did not want to comment on its preparations for any protests. Meanwhile, state Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks said in a statement that law enforcement is monitoring the situation and working closely with agencies statewide to preserve public safety.