ARMED pro-Trump protesters started gathering at capitols across the United States over the weekend as Inauguration Day nears.
Demonstrators have taken to notable buildings in Michigan, Texas, Oregon, Ohio, Utah, and New Hampshire capitols.
The small protest groups come as former FBI boss James Comey has warned Joe Biden's inauguration is under threat from "armed, disturbed" people following the January 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Security across the country was increased leading up to Biden's big day on January 20, following the FBI's warning for armed protests in all 50 US states.
Right-ring protesters were seen outside statehouses on Sunday – with some of them toting rifles.
Capitol cities saw small groups gathering in support of gun rights, President Donald Trump and some – hoping to avoid a government overreach.
As demonstrators gathered across the country on Sunday:
- Millions of Americans are eagerly waiting to see if a round of $1,400 stimulus checks will be sent out
- The FBI continues to arrest Capitol rioters including a woman who live-streamed the siege
- President-elect Biden postponed his inauguration rehearsal over security threats
- Biden's Inauguration Day 2021 crowd will be much smaller than Donald Trump's due to Covid
Around 100 people – some armed – in Lansing, Michigan, stood in the city's capitol.
However, the number of protesters wasn't anywhere near the amount of law enforcement officers assigned to the area.
Michigan State Police Lieutenant Brian Oleksyk condemned violence on Sunday.
He told the Detroit Free Press: "We want to make this a safe environment for people to come down here to express their constitutional rights.
"We don't know how many people are going to attend or how many groups or what groups. But we are prepared to protect this building as well as the people that are here.
"We're not going to tolerate any type of violence, any type of destruction of property, any assault to police officers (or) other people here expressing their constitutional rights, as well as the media.
"That's criminal behavior, and we will arrest those people for those crimes."
Approximately 25 antigovernment extremists – claiming to be a part of the "boogaloo" movement" – were seen outside the Statehouse in Columbus Ohio on Sunday, the New York Times reported.
Armed government protesters were present in Salt Lake City, Utah, as National Guard members and state troopers stood by near the capitol's statehouse.
A "We are not the enemy rally" – held by members of the "Boogaloo bois" – was in effect from 9am to 3pm, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The small group had received a permit prior to holding their peaceful demonstration.
Another small group of demonstrators took to Austin, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
According to KVUE, a majority of protesters in Texas' capitol said they had planned the peaceful protest months ago and were there in support of the Second Amendment.
“All we came down here to do today was to discuss, gather, network and hang out. And it got blown and twisted completely out of proportion,” protester Ben Hawk told the Associated Press.
The Times spoke with protester Daniel Hunter who explained: "The only reason I’m here is to ensure that no one storms the Capitol.
"If they do, I’ll get in front of them and be trampled."
In Salem, Oregon, around 20 people – donning military-style attire and helmets – stood in the capitol with semiautomatic weapons.
Some were seen with "Disarm the government" signs.
In Concord, New Hampshire, a minimal amount of protesters stood near the Daniel Webster statue by statehouse, The Times reported.
There was a police presence in the area to ensure safety, as a handful of masked men – said to be in the boogaloo movement – were seen wearing camouflage and holding AR-15s.
Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Minnesota were also among states that saw demonstrations on Sunday.
The Metropolitan Police Department arrested Guy Berry – a 22-year-old Virginia man – near Capitol Hill on Sunday morning.
His arrest came after he was spotted holding a firearm, 37 rounds of ammunition, and three magazines, according to NPR.
Meanwhile, a significant amount of Starbucks stores in New York City shut their doors on Sunday.
Starbucks spokeswoman Jessica Conradson told the Daily News: "Out of an abundance of caution and in keeping partner and customer safety top of mind, local leaders have made the decision to close select stores in the Manhattan area due to expected protests happening today.
"We will resume operations tomorrow.”
Despite the coffee-chain's protest fears, the New York Police Department has not found any credible threats.
National Guard troops were being activated in the days leading up to Inauguration Day.
Approximately 19 states, including Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, activated Guardsmen to their capitol cities.
Last week, an intelligence report warned that militia mobs, white supremacists, and QAnon obsessives inspired by the Capitol riots pose a greater terror threat in the US than ISIS this year.
A joint intelligence bulletin by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center also warns brainwashed extremists are ready to "martyr" themselves for the cause.
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