Oklahoma Capitol security enhanced as FBI warns of armed protests
Following warnings from federal law enforcement officials, state and local leaders are preparing for the possibility of protests at the Oklahoma state Capitol in the next week.
Gov. Kevin Stitt has been in contact with members of the Oklahoma National Guard and legislative leaders talked with Oklahoma Department of Public Safety officials after the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol last week.
The FBI has warned that armed protests could break out in all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.
“We have been monitoring the situation and are taking the appropriate measures," Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said in a statement. "The governor has consistently supported the right to peaceful demonstration but there is no place for violence or damage to property. We will protect the rights of Oklahomans while maintaining public safety.”
Stitt activated National Guard teams in June, following local protests against police violence.
Following the violent riot led by supporters of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol last week, House Speaker Charles McCall asked the state's Department of Public Safety for a briefing on security plans. McCall, R-Atoka, was satisfied with what the department reported, said his spokesman, John Estus.
"There is increased security at the building already and DPS is prepared for any scenario in partnership with other law enforcement entities," Estus said. "Based on the briefing DPS provided, the Speaker believes the public and those who work in this building should be safe. There are no plans to close the building at this time."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety said she could not release details about Capitol security.
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Any time there is a large, planned event at the Capitol, the department has a plan in place that involves extra personnel, said spokeswoman Sarah Stewart.
"We closely monitor national and state activities that involve the protection of government facilities," she said. "We are working with the Governor’s Office as well as House and Senate leadership regarding the safety and security of the public, state employees, elected officials, and government facilities."
The public and Capitol employees can have confidence the department is taking the appropriate steps to keep the Capitol and the public safe, said Aaron Cooper, spokesman for Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.
Firearms are not allowed inside the building, but are allowed outside.
A spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department said local police are also monitoring the situation. Capt. Daniel Stewart declined to give details of the department's plans, but said, "as with any situation, (we) have plans in place to address any unlawful acts."
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association Board of Directors on Monday recommended its members avoid a weekend rally at the state Capitol. It's not clear who is organizing the rally or if the event will still occur.
"A gathering at the Oklahoma State Capitol on January 17th is nothing more than a ploy to escalate otherwise peaceful law-abiding citizens into a frenzy to damage state and private property," the group wrote in a statement.
A group of Trump supporters that has previously held multiple peaceful rallies at the state Capitol has canceled a rally planned for Saturday, according to the Facebook event.
Staff writer William Crum contributed to this report.