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January 15, 2021

Philly steps up security ahead of Inauguration Day in wake of Capitol riot

Police Protests
inauguration security philly meeting Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

As the FBI warns officials in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., about plans for armed protests, there have been no specific threats to Philadelphia, to date. As a precaution the city officials say there will be an increased police presence in Philadelphia in the days leading to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Security measures will increase in Philadelphia ahead of Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, city officials said Thursday.

Philly does not face any "credible or specific threats" of violence, but city officials are being cautious in the aftermath the Pro-Trump Capitol riot last Wednesday.

Five people died in the insurrection at the Capitol riot, and earlier this week a bulletin from the FBI warning that armed protests could take place in all 50 state capitals and Washington, D.C., starting this weekend.

Philadelphia hasn't received any threats, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said during a security briefing with other law enforcement and city officials, but "this is a fluid situation," she added.

"We will continue to maintain an open line of communication with our partner agencies and the public, to make sure that information flows in a timely and accurate manner," Outlaw said.

There will be additional officers deployed throughout the city beginning around Jan. 16 to respond to possible threats, she said. They will help to protect historic landmarks, federal buildings, and be on standby in the event of public demonstrations or civic unrest. 

Federal authorities will be assisting Philadelphia's efforts, Mike Driscoll, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia FBI field office, said.

"Philadelphia, like many of our field offices, are collaborating with the Washington field office," said Driscoll. "We are focused right now on identifying, investigating, and disrupting any potential threat."

The FBI has arrested two Pennsylvania residents in connection with the Capitol riot: 69-year-old Terry Brown, of Lebanon County, and 55-year-old Robert Sanford, of Upper Chichester, Delaware County.

Driscoll urged anyone with information about potential violence to report it to FBI, and threats of immediate violence should be reported to the Philadelphia Police Department.

No road closures are planned and businesses have not been advised to board up their windows. No service changes are planned for SEPTA at this time, Mayor Jim Kenney said.

"While we continue to hope and pray for peace and safety, leading up to and after inauguration day, we must also plan and prepare for every alternative that could come our way," Kenney said. "Violence, vandalism, and other criminal behavior that we witnessed last week at the Capitol will not be tolerated."

During the Thursday's briefing, officials compared their preparations for the coming days to the days following the 2020 presidential election, when security measures were increased amid "Stop the Steal" demonstrations. In November, two armed men were arrested after law enforcement received a tip they were headed to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted. 

The men were arrested and are facing trial for "interfering with an election," which is a felony. District Attorney Larry Krasner warned on Thursday that anyone with similar plans will face arrest and criminal charges.

"If you are under the impression that you can be in the city of Philadelphia doing anything at all in order to carry out criminal conduct ... you are wrong." Krasner said. "And we will explain it to you with handcuffs."

State Sen, Vincent Hughes echoed Krasner's words and spoke on the significance of protecting Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia plays a significant role, just in a symbolic fashion, as the birthplace of democracy. The Independence Hall, the Constitution Center, they represent the foundation of this nation," Hughes said. "We will secure the foundation of this nation, just like we secured our democracy on Election Day."

Of his workplace, the state capitol building in Harrisburg, Hughes said that "all preparations were made."

The Harrisburg capitol complex is currently closed to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic. It will also close for two days next week around the inauguration. Barriers and national guardsmen have also been stationed in and around the building. 

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