Local News

Locked-down downtown Raleigh quiet as Biden takes office

Posted January 20, 2021 5:16 p.m. EST

— Since the riot at the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago, state capitols across the country have been bracing for more violent unrest, but law enforcement officers and reporters far outnumbered protesters in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday.

Many government buildings in Raleigh, including Wake County and Raleigh offices, were closed for the day as a precaution in the event of a riot, and authorities surrounded the Capitol and other buildings.

Only a handful of protesters showed up, and they remained peaceful.

"If we don't stand for anything, then evil will just prevail," said William, a 20-year-old from Johnston County who refused to give his last name.

"We're just tired of being shut out as a conservative," said protester Donald Shirley, of Beaufort, who had a Trump flag draped over his shoulders. "We’re not going to be able to move forward until they leave Trump alone because he is the head of our party.

"It’s going to be divisive," Shirley added. "You’re not going to have unity, with the two that’s coming into office, for a long time."

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Raleigh welcomes peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, but she hopes Wednesday is the last time officials need such extensive security downtown.

"For a long time, we have recognized the right of people to peacefully protest," Freeman said. "Once that crosses over the line, you know, we're going to do what we need to do to uphold the rule of law and to maintain peace in the downtown area.

"We spent a long time as a city building downtown and making it what it is today, and I know that those shop owners and others down there are ready to get back to business as usual," she added. "We look forward to coming back together as a community here in Raleigh and moving forward."

The government buildings and courthouse will reopen Thursday morning.

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