TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Friday was calm outside the Kansas State Capitol, but that could change next week with protests planned at the statehouse. Heightened security measures will be in place in the next few days, according to Kansas Highway Patrol.
“We plan to have an increased presence in and around the statehouse,” said Kansas Highway Patrol Lieutenant Candice Breshears.
Kansas Highway Patrol is working with federal and state partners to crack down on protests set to take place at the statehouse starting Sunday, Jan. 17. The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned of plans for armed protests at state capitols nationwide, leading up to Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
“What we’re doing is continuing to monitor the situation and taking everything seriously,” Breshears said. “We’re all going to continue to work together to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible.”
With the potential for armed protests, the potential for unauthorized militias may increase as well according to some reports. Federal law outlaws groups that engage in activities reserved for state agencies, including making shows of force as armed groups at public gatherings.
While some recent protests at the state’s capitol have been non-violent, with some groups planning to refrain from participating in protests in the coming week, with President Trump impeached and Biden set to take office in less than a week, there’s fear that these protests may turn violent.
A social scientist in Kansas studying extreme terrorist groups, who goes by the alias Steve Fuller told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau Friday there may not be a need to worry about armed militant groups at Kansas’ statehouse though.
“It may become dangerous in other states like Idaho, or maybe Texas, or Missouri, where these groups have larger members over many decades,” he said. “And now they’re kind of connected with disgruntled Trump supporters.”
Fuller said most of the extremist groups he’s aware of are concentrated in northeastern regions, near the Nebraska border, and southwestern parts of the state — far from the state’s capitol.
According to the Governor’s office, firearms are allowed in the statehouse either through a concealed carry permit or through open carry. There haven’t been any changes made to these rules as the legislative session is underway. However, the state announced there will be no public access to the building on Jan. 11, during Kansas’ legislative session. Only those with legislative business are allowed until the 2021 session ends.
Melissa Underwood, spokesperson for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said specific details on the state’s plans will not be released as to not compromise the safety of both law enforcement and Kansans.
“The KBI is aware of planned protests and potential threats associated with them. We are engaged with our public safety partners,” Underwood said. “However, we will not be sharing any information with the public about law enforcement plans, security measures, or investigative tactics.”
According to Topeka law, wearing gas masks, bulletproof vests, improvised body armor or masks or devices to conceal one’s identity during unlawful activities is prohibited. It’s unlawful to carry, possess, or wear those devices during parades, demonstrations, rallies and assemblies.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is encouraging the public to call 911 immediately if they see a crime happening or have an emergency. However, if they come across something suspicious, see or hear something that makes them uneasy or they want law enforcement to know, they can submit the information at https://www.kbi.ks.gov/sar.