Harrisburg, Capitol police prepare for protests

Written by on January 15, 2021

Harrisburg, Capitol police prepare for protests

By Sam Dunklau / WITF

January 15, 2021

Barricades block stairs at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Jan. 12, 2021. Photo | Sam Dunklau / WITF

Demonstrators intent on protesting at the state Pennsylvania Capitol Complex  in the coming days may be met with everything from mounted police to Pennsylvania National Guard troops who are preparing to keep the peace.

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Law enforcement leaders say they are planning to close roadways and deploy extra personnel and resources to protect the complex ahead of possible armed protests.

City and state police were initially vague about their plans, even as online calls for armed protests at all 50 state capitols have grown in the days since the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While no formal protest has been scheduled at either the Capitol or in the City of Harrisburg, police are ready to use everything from mounted officers to helicopters to help keep order.

Harrisburg Police Commissioner Tom Carter says officers will not stand in the way of peaceful protestors.

“We are not looking to see or to get into any physical confrontation with anybody. We understand, you know, that everybody has grievances. There’s a way to put those grievances out there,” Carter says. 

Capitol Police Superintendent Jo Jacob says heavily-armed special response team officers are patrolling the grounds, and the department is ready to close streets should protests escalate.

“Our job is to make sure the complex, the Capitol itself, the people who work here and visit here are safe. We are here for the long haul,” Jacob says.

State police are planning to have a bomb squad on site and keep tabs on the Capitol Complex with drones and even helicopters.

As part of the show of force, Gov. Tom Wolf is sending 450 National Guard troops to the complex to provide additional security and support.

State and city leaders are stressing violence and vandalism of any kind on the part of demonstrators “can’t and won’t be tolerated.”

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