As law enforcement agencies across the country braced for possible political violence in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said the Pennsylvania Capitol would close for two days next week to guard against unrest connected to the swearing-in of President-elect Joe Biden.
Capitol Police Superintendent Joe Jacob said the measure was being taken “out of an abundance of caution” after the FBI warned of possible violence at all 50 state capitol buildings. Jacob said his agency was not aware of any plan by demonstrators to target the Pennsylvania Capitol in the coming days.
“There are no specific threats to the Capitol or the Capitol complex,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s Capitol complex has already been shut down to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Wolf’s announcement Thursday would close the facilities for most employees next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The decision came a week after supporters of President Donald Trump violently stormed the Capitol in Washington, and on the same day that officials in Philadelphia said they have seen no specific threats of unrest aimed at the city planned for this weekend or into next week.
“At this particular point in time, we do not have any credible or specific threats to Philadelphia,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference featuring city government and law enforcement leaders.
Outlaw said officers would be sent to protect “historic landmarks and other government buildings” this weekend and additional officers would be on standby to respond to any situations resembling unrest. Still, city officials said they were not expecting any major street closures or disruptions to routine city services in advance of the inauguration, and were not advising businesses to board up or close.
Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia field office, said federal authorities have so far arrested two people from Pennsylvania for participating in the insurrection at the Capitol: Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, who is accused of lobbing a fire extinguisher that hit three police officers, and Terry Brown, 69, of Lebanon County, who was charged with illegally entering the Capitol.
Outlaw, Driscoll, and District Attorney Larry Krasner all said local and federal authorities would work together to investigate and quell any possible unrest as they had before Election Day in November, when large demonstrations on the street passed mostly peacefully as votes were being counted in the close and contentious presidential contest.
Two men from Virginia were arrested at the time, accused of driving to Philadelphia with illegal guns in an attempt to interfere with ballot counting. Krasner on Thursday pointed to their case — which earlier in the day was held for trial following a preliminary hearing — as an example of how law enforcement would handle those who might resort to violence, vandalism, or other criminal behavior.
“This city, this team, is going to make sure that there is federal accountability, or there is state accountability, or there is both,” he said.