Local News

Raleigh law enforcement prepared for political protests in waning days of Trump administration

Posted January 12, 2021 7:02 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2021 3:33 p.m. EST

Local law enforcement agencies said Tuesday that they're prepared for any protests in downtown Raleigh in the next week or so as President Donald Trump leaves office.

After last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol stoked by Trump's repeated claims to supporters of a "stolen" election, the FBI warned law enforcement nationwide on Monday of the potential for armed protests at all 50 state capitols before and after President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.

No group affiliated with an election protest had requested a permit to gather downtown as of Tuesday.

"We are prepared, and we are ready," Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said.

Baldwin said Raleigh leaders learned many lessons about responding to protests last summer, when rioters took over city streets, damaging and looting businesses and setting fires as they battled with police in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minnesota.

Law enforcement agencies are working together to prepare for any protests and keep people safe, Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said.

"I can’t tell you how it’s going to happen, but we’ll just be prepared to deal with what we have seen," Baker said.

The Raleigh Police Department declined to comment on its preparations, saying in a statement that "personnel who are responsible for security and logistical planning consider and evaluate many factors, including events that have occurred elsewhere, as they make safety and staffing decisions."

Chris Swecker, a former FBI agent who now is an intelligence and security consultant, said that collecting good intelligence and acting on it is critical in keeping protests from getting out of hand. A solid plan for crowd control also is necessary, he said.

"When you have untrained forces going up against fairly well-organized extremist organizations who are hell-bent for violence, it’s a mismatch," Swecker said.

Raleigh has a mobile crowd control force to handle major protests, and members are often out of sight until they are needed, he said. The force is trained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Swecker calls the "gold standard" for crowd control.

Baker noted more than 50,000 gun permits issued last year in Wake County alone, heightening concerns about the threat of an armed protest.

"Even though we are an open carry state, protesting with weapons is not legal, and we will be ready to deal with that situation," Baldwin said.

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