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Wisconsin Capitol Police tell lawmakers to stay away this weekend

Wisconsin Capitol Police tell lawmakers to stay away this weekend

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State Capitol

The head of the Wisconsin Capitol Police told state lawmakers to stay away from the Capitol building this weekend and suggested that they remove any personal information from social media accounts due to threats of unrest at capitols in all 50 states.

Capitol Police Chief David Erwin told lawmakers in a Thursday memo obtained by The Associated Press that they were “not aware of specific credible threats to legislators; however, this remains an evolving situation and there continues to be active social media commentary regarding the threat of ongoing unrest.”

Although Erwin asked lawmakers not to be in the building this weekend, it didn’t recommend that they curtail normal legislative activity next week. Two public hearings are scheduled, but no meetings of the full Senate or Assembly. President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday.

Law enforcement will have an “increased presence” in the Wisconsin Capitol next week, lawmakers were told.

Gov. Tony Evers also activated an unspecified number of National Guard troops to help protect the Capitol, which has been closed to the public since last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the first-floor windows were boarded up this week, and Evers’ administration told those who had been coming to work at the Capitol to instead work remotely for the rest of the month.

The governor said Friday that he was receiving “constant” updates and that law enforcement was well-prepared. He also noted that the state Capitol remained closed to the public due to the pandemic.

“There’s lots of rumors going around,” he said, without elaborating. “(But) we feel confident that we’re in a safe place here around the Capitol.”

Law enforcement officials were reducing parking around the Capitol on Sunday and urging people to avoid the area as they braced for potential unrest. There was only one known organized event for the day, an anti-fascist demonstration where free food, drinks and clothes were to be distributed.

Madison’s acting police chief, Vic Wahl, said his department would have a heightened presence through Inauguration Day due to warnings of potential violence at state capitols, but he said he wasn’t aware of any specific threats in Wisconsin. Law enforcement officials were urging the public to be on high alert and to report any suspicious behavior.

Erwin also offered suggestions in the memo about how lawmakers could remain safe, including at home, on social media and when receiving packages.

“Consider removing personally identifying information about your or your family so that it is not easily accessible,” the chief advised.

He also wrote that lawmakers should keep their doors locked at their homes, even when present, and be on high alert for anything unusual.

“Trust your gut,” Erwin wrote. “If something doesn’t feel right, retreat to safety, and summon help.”

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