Lawmakers, staff and Second Amendment supporters are being urged to stay away from the state Capitol this weekend as officials brace for possible armed and violent protests.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that the FBI has warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
It wasn’t clear Wednesday which groups — if any — are planning a rally in Oklahoma and what they’d be protesting.
A group of Trump supporters, who held a peaceful protest at the Capitol last week, reportedly told supporters on Facebook that they had canceled a second event planned for Saturday.
No one has formally reserved Oklahoma Capitol grounds for protests this weekend, but state officials are preparing, said Bonnie Campo, a spokeswoman for the state agency tasked with Capitol reservations. Reservations aren’t required, but do give priority if two competing events occur.
“DPS is staging troopers there,” Campo said. “They’re saying they’ll have an increased presence there to make sure they’re keeping property and people safe.”
Sarah Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, would not say which days they’re expecting protests. DPS provides security at the state Capitol. She also said weapons are allowed on Capitol grounds, but not inside the building. The Capitol is open on weekends.
State senators and personnel Wednesday were told not to come to the state Capitol on Saturday and Sunday, according to email obtained by CNHI Oklahoma.
The email said the recommendation was made after consulting with DPS and the Senate security coordinator.
“You have likely seen the news reports about the FBI bulletin and warnings that armed protests are possible at the U.S. Capitol and state capitols across the nation,” according to the email sent by the Senate’s chief operating officer. “Due to these warnings, federal, state and local law enforcement are preparing for such a possibility of protests at the Oklahoma state Capitol.”
Charlie Hannema, a spokesman for Gov. Kevin Stitt, said his office is monitoring the situation and is taking appropriate measures.
“The governor has consistently supported the right to peaceful demonstration, but there is no place for violence or damage to property,” he said. “We will protect the rights of Oklahomans while maintaining public safety.”
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, meanwhile, is urging its members to stay home.
The group, which advocates for gun rights, said it disputes the results of the 2020 presidential election, but said its board of directors agrees that a Jan. 17 gathering at the Capitol “is nothing more than a ploy to escalate otherwise peaceful law-abiding citizens into a frenzy to damage state and private property,” said Don Spencer, the group’s president, on Monday.
“The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association recommends to its membership and others to not participate in this scheme to create more instability in an already volatile environment,” he said. “We are asking citizens to be vigilant and call for calmness during this time.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.