U.S. officials have warned nationwide authorities to be aware of potential acts of violence at state capitals as well as a possible other attack on the Capitol or the White House. Law enforcement officials have said extremists may use firearms and explosives and monitor online calls to gather in cities nationwide beginning Sunday. Security at the inaugural ceremony in Washington on Wednesday will likely be the most intense ever.
At the center of the amorphous but increasingly motivated extremist movement, the current president, now twice accused, is deprived of his megaphones on social media, but still has a strong influence on his supporters, who take his baseless allegations of electoral fraud as an article of faith .
It remains unclear when and where groups may launch follow-up attacks, but even if they withdraw in the coming days ̵
“It’s starting to shift from ‘We want to win this’ to ‘This fight is going to be long,'” said Rita Katz, CEO of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups and their use of social media to inspire and organize supporters. “The widespread consensus across the movements involved in or supporting the Capitol siege is that they continue to push forward.”
Federal authorities are warning state leaders to be prepared for the possibility of attacks in state capitals in the days before Biden’s inauguration.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) declared a state of emergency on Thursday, saying it was “reasonable to believe” that rebels “will endanger lawmakers, lawmakers and the public as well as destroy public and historic infrastructure” in the state.
“There are people in our country who want to turn peaceful protests into opportunities for violence,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) told a news conference that he would convene more than 400 National Guard troops and close state offices. in Columbus until January 21st.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told reporters that officials were monitoring “an extensive amount of online talk” about inauguration events.
“Right now, we are tracking calls for potential armed protests and activities leading up to the inauguration,” Wray said, noting that it was a challenge “to distinguish between what was ambitious and what was conscious.”
Some officials said they take no chances and were braced for the likelihood of attack. After the siege of the Capitol, “what we have already seen and experienced are depths and lengths that people are willing to advance for their cause,” said Andrew Walsh, a deputy chief of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department who participated in a call the FBI and local law enforcement officials Wednesday.
“I want to put it this way: People tell us what they want to do, and then they do it,” Walsh said. “Then there is no excuse to be surprised.”
As Trump spends his last days in office, some of his supporters, who are free of his instructions via Twitter, are unsure where to focus their energy, experts said. Some events planned in Washington and in capitals have been canceled, partly for fear that the events were actually organized by federal authorities as a “false flag” operation to capture Trump supporters.
The organizer of “Million Militia March” appears to have left a demonstration day in Washington and warned supporters on his personal website to “STAY FAR AWAY FROM DC & ALL STATE CAPITALS. . . IT’s A MISTAKE. ”
Social media platforms and web hosting services have removed accounts and chat apps that Trump supporters used to coordinate the January 6 attack. But it has also made it harder for law enforcement officials to monitor those who may be planning violence.
It is a measure of Trump’s influence that extremists express frustration that they are left without clear guidance from any central figure on what to do, when and where to gather. But they adapt.
“What they’re seeing now is a fragmentation, a frustration among some of the supporters, because they do not even have Trump to give instructions,” said a congressional assistant who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive government intelligence, including warnings. contained in a joint intelligence bulletin published by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It concluded that there is “a high degree of uncertainty” about the timing and location of potential attacks, although the volume of online extremist talk has increased markedly.
The Anti-Defamation League said it has tracked an increase in calls for nationwide armed protests beginning Sunday.
Experts said right-wing extremists have urged their supporters to loot and burn buildings and use physical violence against those they perceive as helping Biden illegally seize the presidency.
On TheDonald.win, a forum that attracted some of Trump’s most ardent and threatening supporters during the January 6 attack, users seemed to accept that law enforcement officials were likely to crush any protest in the near future. The participants in the forum discussed when the next opportunity for armed protest could arise.
“We will not sit on our hands for the next four years, but we can choose our matches going forward,” reads a message allegedly written by Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the far-right Proud Boys and sent to subscribers on the group’s Telegram channel. an encrypted messaging app.
Thousands of users have flocked to Telegram as companies in social media took steps to expel right-wing extremist groups and conspiracy theorists from their platforms. Twitter closed more than 70,000 accounts affiliated with QAnon, a conspiracy theory claiming a secretive cabal of democratic Satan worshipers is running the government, and Amazon suspended Parler, a conservative alternative to Twitter, from its web hosting services.
Telegram has also cracked down on its own significant number of white supremacist and neo-Nazi users, experts said. On Telegram, some users have urged supporters to abandon plans for another protest in Washington in favor of surprise attacks nationwide.
“These lizards have addresses outside of DC, across the country, hell maybe nearby in your flyover mode,” wrote a channel administrator. “Will the military deploy en masse everywhere? They can not. ”
Some members of Congress have sought private personal security after Trump supporters harassed them at home, said a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect lawmakers from becoming bigger targets.
There is some evidence that in the absence of a clear direction from Trump, groups are taking it upon themselves to organize in their communities.
A Telegram message on a far-right channel called “Boogaloo Intel Drop” told followers to “get a feel for your local area and get your friends together.” The announcement said they should find others who are furious at Ashli Babbitt who was shot by a police officer while storming the Capitol.
“No, we will not tell you,” shows up on XX day and does XX, “” which would risk warning the authorities, the message continued, advising supporters to “have some damn ingenuity and autonomy.”
In the week since the attack on the Capitol, members of the Boogaloo channel have cheered for the erosion of Trump supporters’ reverence for the police and called for continued action. Boogaloos have long advocated for violence against the police and have not had the same concerns as other right-wing extremist groups about turning on police authorities.
Experts said that although extremist groups are loosely organized, they are strongly united in their belief that the election was stolen, an idea that will last long after Trump leaves the White House.
“This animated tale of something being taken from them, stolen from them, is essentially a gift that the president has given them from others and is likely to animate some extremists for at least the next four years,” said Oren Segal, Vice President of the Center for Extremism in the Anti-Defamation League.
Katz, the terrorism researcher, said: “This movement is not something we just want to erase from social media or evaporate by keeping them away from mainstream media. As we have seen with other extremist movements, the extremists behind the siege of the Capitol will be further radicalized as they are pushed into less moderate online venues. ”
Ellen Nakashima, Mark Berman and Marissa J. Lang contributed to this report.