‘It’s something we’re concerned with.’ NJ officials fear unrest as inauguration nears
Officials with the New Jersey State Police and Office of Homeland Security are vowing to be prepared for potential unrest at the State House.
The FBI issued a warning that there are plans for protests at all 50 state capitols and in Washington, D.C. before the presidential inauguration. The protests may start later this week and extend through Jan. 20. Officials say that they believe some of the people who may participate in these protests belong to extremist groups.
Barricades have been set up around the New Jersey State House ahead of the demonstrations.
“There's a lot of chatter out there…nothing specific, but there's definitely a lot of chatter out there, and it’s something we're concerned with,” says Homeland Security Director Jared Maples.
Maples says that he watched in horror as a mob of insurrectionists breached the Capitol in Washington last Wednesday.
“My background, my career, I spent a lot of time overseas…in denied areas, in war zones. I don’t think I ever thought I would have to deliver some of the updates I had to deliver to the governor,” Maples says. “Those are updates that I didn’t think I would pass in my job now. It’s certainly something I’ve dealt with overseas, but not in America.”
The State House is just feet from the Delaware River, the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maples says he's concerned that armed protesters could cross the river, from a state where the gun laws are not as strict as New Jersey's.
“But make no mistake about it, if you were to bring a gun in that violated our laws, our rules, I can guarantee you that we’re going to go after you as such,” Maples says.
State police who guard the State House were overwhelmed by a peaceful but massive group of anti-vaccine advocates who first descended on Trenton last December. On May 31, Trenton police lost control of downtown during a riot that followed a day of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.
“We often say, as far as a guarantee goes, I’m not sure that I can do that. But we need to bat 1.000 every day. And to the governor’s point, we’ll be prepared,” State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan said Monday at the COVID-19 briefing.
Gov. Phil Murphy is urging everyone to stay home.
“One Sunday, Jan. 17, even if your heart is 1,000% in the right place, stay home. Stay home,” he said.
Maples says that he considers the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol to be homegrown violent extremists.