WASHINGTON — The FBI said it has no evidence of armed protests in Maine and other New England states after the agency circulated a memo saying they were being planned in all 50 state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. It was first reported by ABC.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
But a spokesperson for the FBI division in Boston said the agency is “not in possession” of any information indicating such events are being planned in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts or Rhode Island — the states it is responsible for — from the upcoming weekend through next Wednesday’s inauguration.
The state has still increased security in and around the State House, according to Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson Katharine England. Chief Russell Gauvin of the Capitol Police said no event permits had been requested on state-owned property in Augusta for the next 10 days.
“Our goal is to facilitate the peaceful and lawful expression of speech and to protect the welfare and safety of all Maine people, and we will continue to work to achieve that,” England wrote.
Deputy Chief Kevin Lully of the Augusta police said Gauvin’s agency has not yet reached out to him about any concerns, but he expected to have conversations with the department in the immediate future, following media reports about possible protests.
Although Augusta does not typically handle events on state property, the departments typically communicate if a big event is expected to cause traffic delays or if an agency may need more resources, he said. The two agencies communicated last week prior to a Jan. 9 rally at the State House, Lully said, an event he said ended up being “small and peaceful.”
Other states have beefed up security after the protests. Many of those that have done so have been in states where legislatures have convened. Maine has started its session but lawmakers have not met in person since then and has a provision allowing much of its work to be done electronically.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Monday that the Guard is also looking at any issues across the country,
“We’re keeping a look across the entire country to make sure that we’re monitoring, and that our Guards in every state are in close coordination with their local law enforcement agencies to provide any support requested.”
The riots followed weeks on online calls for violence in Washington in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency after the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, which delayed the affirmation of Biden’s victory and led to the deaths of five people, including a Trump supporter and a policeman.
A tweet in which Trump promised that last Wednesday’s event “will be wild” fueled a “month-long frenzy of incitements, strategizing, and embrace of violence against lawmakers,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a research group that tracks online extremism activity.
This story was written by Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo and Michael Kunzelman of the Associated Press. Bangor Daily News writer Caitlin Andrews contributed to this report.