Inauguration Day protests remain small, peaceful in California despite fears of violence
While law enforcement officials across California were on high alert for potential threats in response to the inauguration of President Biden, the streets of Sacramento and Los Angeles — where patrols were beefed up amid concern that violence could erupt — remained peaceful Wednesday afternoon.
The increased security comes after the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. More than 100 people, including three Beverly Hills residents, have been charged with federal crimes related to the violent incursion, and scores more are under investigation, according to federal authorities.
The region was quiet Wednesday morning, aside from a magnitude 3.5 earthquake that briefly shook portions of Southern California at 8:31 a.m. The quake, which occurred just before Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female vice president, was too small to cause any damage.
Around 11 a.m., Sacramento police reported that some small groups of people wearing all black and helmets and carrying shields had begun to congregate at local parks in the area.
Shortly after noon, a group of roughly 50 people made its way through the streets of Sacramento toward the state Capitol. Several protesters affixed a cloth banner reading “Abolish ICE” to a fence in front of the Capitol building before the group continued its march, while dozens of officers stood guard just beyond the fence.
Police said they are monitoring the group’s activity but that no incidents have occurred.
Law enforcement across the state was still poised to act in case of unrest.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department will increase the number of uniformed deputies and officers on the streets and transit systems. Bomb-sniffing dogs will also be out in force, while detectives and others not typically assigned to patrol will be available to respond to any disturbances, officials said.
There are three demonstrations planned in the Los Angeles area Wednesday, including one at MacArthur Park and another at City Hall.
“Right now, there is no credible threat,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a news briefing Tuesday with LAPD Chief Michel Moore, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Kristi Johnson, the FBI’s assistant director in charge in L.A. “Our mission is to act as if there was one — we are prepared.”
Police in Long Beach will be on tactical alert until Thursday morning. Days off for personnel will be suspended, and more officers will be patrolling the streets, authorities said in a statement.
Joe Biden is inaugurated hours after his predecessor leaves the White House, clearing the way for a beleaguered nation to turn the page on one of the most divisive chapters in its political history.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said Monday that although the department has not heard of any credible threats, officials are in daily contact with federal, state and regional law enforcement agencies to ensure they’re getting the most up-to-date information about any issues that may arise.
“We watched in horror ... the events around the U.S. Capitol. I want to assure you that for us, as a police department, we are paying attention,” Luna said. “We are very concerned about any and all threats that are coming out of this event.”
California Highway Patrol Commissioner Amanda Ray announced last week that the agency would also be on tactical alert. The agency is responsible for the protection of the state’s highways and buildings, including the Capitol, Ray said.
“For many months, the CHP has worked closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the outcome of the election will be respected and that any protests which may occur are free from violence,” she said in a statement. “The CHP maintains strong relationships with our security and intelligence partners around the country and is continually evaluating possible emerging threats to the state. As such, the CHP is prepared to respond to any potential threats which may arise statewide.”
Law enforcement officials in Orange County were not aware of any planned demonstrations Wednesday but said they were prepared to respond if necessary.
About 200 National Guard troops are also stationed near Los Angeles to assist local law enforcement.
“We have no plans or desire to deploy these troops, but they are ready if needed,” Garcetti said. “I want to be very clear: If you are planning violence here in Los Angeles, you will be stopped. You will be prosecuted, and you will pay the price.”
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