Minnesota's top public safety officials said Friday they have detailed precautions set up ahead of weekend protests, but there are no credible threats against the Minnesota Capitol.
An FBI bulletin from the end of December said there was evidence that right-wing extremists would target the Minnesota and Michigan capitols on Sunday. But Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said that is "dated material," and an FBI official told him during a briefing Friday morning that there is no credible immediate threat to Minnesota.
Harrington, Gov. Tim Walz and leaders of the Minnesota National Guard, St. Paul Police and State Patrol sought to reassure Minnesotans at a news conference amid concerns about violence breaking out.
"There has been nothing left undone to keep the Capitol safe," Harrington said, saying the plan developed by state, federal and local agencies is one of the best he has seen. "We will keep the peace in the days that lead up to the inauguration in D.C., and we're prepared to keep the peace as long as it takes," Harrington said.
No weekend curfew is being discussed in the Twin Cities at this point, Harrington said. However, he has asked Minnesotans to stay away from the State Capitol in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration out of an "abundance of caution."
While people will be able to walk near the Capitol, traffic on roads near the building will be restricted. The Capitol building is closed to the public and a tall fence has surrounded it since last summer's protests following George Floyd's death.
The Minnesota National Guard plans to have more than 100 members of its military police protect the State Capitol, said Adjutant General Shawn Manke, and they can add more Guard members as needed. He said they will also send more than 850 Minnesota Guard members to Washington, D.C. to provide security for the inauguration.
"We are not panicking. We are concerned, we are alert and we are prepared," Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said.
Two events are formally scheduled at the Capitol this weekend: A "Freedom Fest" Saturday and a church service on Sunday. Conservative activist Becky Strohmeier, who applied for permits for the two events, coordinated last week's "Storm the Capitol" gathering in St. Paul.
There was no attempt to actually storm the building in Minnesota during that event, though a number of protesters carried guns and talked of armed revolt.
Long guns, such as rifles, are not allowed inside the Capitol, but people can have them around the rest of the Capitol complex as long as they have a permit to carry, State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said.
Walz and Flanagan said they want to start a discussion about changing gun rules around the Capitol buildings. People can carry guns inside Capitol buildings and on the grounds, with some restrictions.
Just because people have the right to carry a gun in that space does not mean they should, Walz said.
"In the middle of a heated political debate, on public land where other people come, to carry that thing in a reckless manner is meant to intimidate," Walz said.
He noted that Michigan recently banned the open carry of guns inside its Capitol. Flanagan, who leads the advisory committee on Capitol area security, did not say where she stands on a full firearm ban or open-carry limitations at the Capitol.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter also said Friday that he is confident there will be coordinated security measures to protect the Capitol building as well as surrounding areas. But Carter said St. Paul residents who live near the Capitol are concerned that protests could spread into their neighborhoods.
Protesters have been sounding an "anti-government" message, Harrington said, so public safety officials are looking at local, state and federal facilities beyond the Capitol that could be secondary targets and have plans to protect those places as well.
He declined to mention specific buildings. However, the U.S. District Court is closing Minnesota's federal court facilities from Sunday through Thursday. And the Minnesota Historical Society is shutting down the History Center in downtown St. Paul on Saturday and Sunday.
Staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044