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Iowa Capitol will be protected, state law enforcement officials say

Iowa Capitol will be protected, state law enforcement officials say

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Iowa Capitol will be protected, state law enforcement officials say

DES MOINES --- With reports of armed protests possible, steps are being taken to assure the Iowa State Capitol remains a safe place in the coming days, state law enforcement officials say.

An internal FBI memo warns of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, according to reporting from ABC News.

One group has called for supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump to “storm” government buildings on inauguration day on Wednesday, even if Trump won the state, as he did Iowa, according to the report.

Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of the results from November’s presidential election. Trump has repeatedly lied about widespread voter fraud, leading many supporters to erroneously believe Trump won the election. The siege on the U.S. Capitol left five dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

An officer with the state public safety department and the Iowa State Patrol, the agency in charge of protection at the Iowa State Capitol, said the department’s intelligence division is monitoring social media and other channels for prospective security concerns, and is working with federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence community partners.

“We at the Department of Public Safety are taking steps and will continue to take steps to secure the safety at the Capitol Complex. Everyone’s well-being is of paramount importance to us,” Sgt. Alex Dinkla, the Iowa State Patrol’s public information officer, said in an email. “Rest assured we have taken extensive precautions to secure everyone’s safety as we continue to serve the people of Iowa.”

The Iowa National Guard has not been asked to provide support, but the Guard is prepared to assist if called upon, said Maj. Gen. Ben Corell.

“I’ve been in communication with (Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens), and he feels that he has --- through local law enforcement, through the Department of Public Safety, and through other state agencies --- they’re confident that they have the ability to maintain security and maintain anyone who wants to protest, the ability through their First Amendment rights to do so safely,” Corell told reporters Thursday after delivering his annual condition of the guard address to the Iowa Legislature.

“I do have National Guard forces that are trained, they are equipped, and they are ready to respond within a period of time once we’re notified if events on the ground would lead us to require additional forces to help within the state of Iowa,” Corell said.

The Des Moines Police Department also is preparing for the potential need to respond to any incidents, an official said.

“As of now, we have not identified or received any credible threats or indications of potential violence. We will continue to monitor our sources,” Sgt. Paul Parizek, the department’s public information officers, said in an email. “Regardless, we have a strategic plan in place for the day of and days around the inauguration, and the ability to respond to any incident at a moment’s notice.”

Todd Prichard, a state lawmaker from Charles City and leader of the Iowa House Democrats, said he is concerned about the reports of possible armed protests and that he has been communicating with the Iowa State Patrol.

“We’re obviously keeping an eye on the situation as we see things unfold in other parts of the country,” Prichard said. “The Iowa State Patrol has assured us and me that they are monitoring the situation, that they’ve taken measures that are appropriate with their manning and their response and those types of actions. I will continue the conversations with the Iowa State Patrol to make sure that we are getting the information that we need to make sure our members are safe when they come here to do their work, and that the public is safe when they come to visit us at the Capitol.

“We are concerned.”

Jack Whitver, a state lawmaker from Ankeny and the Iowa Senate Majority Leader, expressed confidence in the Iowa State Patrol’s ability to handle any potential protests similarly to how it has handled previous protests at the Iowa State Capitol.

“We have a higher security presence here than we’ve ever had. I don’t want to talk about details about what that security plan is, but I feel safe here, Whitver said. “We’ve had protests for years, and we had riots throughout the last year around the Capitol. We’ve had large groups that have been in the Capitol and the Capitol police have made those adjustments over the last year. So we’ve had increased security and will continue to do so.”

Wes Breckenridge, a state lawmaker from Newton and retired police officer, said the situation is “nerve-wracking” but expressed confidence in law enforcement’s ability to keep the Iowa State Capitol safe.

“I do believe we need to be diligent, evaluating every credible threat, and make sure that our law enforcement is doing everything they can to address those potential threats. And I have no doubt they will,” Breckenridge said. “I have no doubt they will step up and do an outstanding job.”

Speaking on the Iowa Senate floor Thursday, Tony Bisignano, a state senator from Des Moines, expressed his frustration that lies about widespread voter fraud have led to concern for the safety of Iowans.

“The fact that some people have put my life in jeopardy, have put my friends in jeopardy, is a shame. And it’s a stain that will be on anyone that went out and gave misinformation about a rigged election knowing it wasn’t true,” Bisignano said. “I have my limits. When my life is put in jeopardy, in harm’s way, because of someone else’s rhetoric, I resent that.”

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