What may have been a chaotic and potentially violent display by protestors at the Washington Capitol Campus has been relatively peaceful, say Washington State Patrol officials.
After rioters expressing their support for President Trump trespassed on the Governor’s Mansion grounds on Jan. 8 and some announced an intention to occupy the Legislative Building upon the start of the legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee requested up to 750 Washington National Guard members to bolster security around the campus.
A row of Guard members in fatigues could be seen standing all of the past week at the Capitol — an intimidating and highly visible security system.
“We have had a calm time at the Capitol Campus. We’ve had very little disruption in it, and we are very hopeful that that will continue through tomorrow and Inauguration Day and beyond,” said Chris Loftis, communications director with WSP, during a media briefing Thursday afternoon.
Loftis said only two people were arrested last Monday — the first day of the session. One person parked an RV in a gated area and refused to move it. Loftis said the gesture was a political statement. The person was arrested for failure to comply.
Another person was arrested after he allegedly entered a restricted area. Loftis said the suspect was brazen in entering the area and announced his intention to do so before, appearing to know he would be arrested. The person was arrested on suspicion of failure to comply. Loftis said that suspect was identified as one of the many people that trespassed on the Mansion grounds the week before so was additionally charged with criminal trespassing.
Both suspects were released from the Thurston County Jail that same day, due to booking restrictions at the jail. Currently, only individuals charged with violent or certain serious charges are kept incarcerated in the jail, to prevent the risk of contracting COVID-19.
No one else has been arrested in association with the massive trespassing incident at the Governor’s Mansion. Loftis noted that the people who will investigate that incident have instead had to focus on the Capitol’s security.
Loftis said he hopes the National Guard members will be sent home fairly soon if the calm continues.
“We just need to remind everybody that just because we don’t have a known threat, doesn’t mean there’s no possible danger. And so we’ve got to think through all the possibilities,” he said.
State capitols across the nation have operated under heightened security leading up to the Inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. Tensions have boiled in Olympia as politically opposed groups organized protests and counter-protests. Two large, violent clashes broke out in December, with each ending in fighting, gunshots, injuries and arrests. Most recently, over 50 people broke through the gate of the Governor’s Mansion and occupied the grounds for about 30 minutes. The group dispersed without further incident once WSP troopers ordered them to leave.