Denver law enforcement officials are aware of possible demonstrations around the state Capitol on Jan. 17 and Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. But that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to happen, said Kelli Christensen, a spokesperson for the Denver Department of Public Safety.
“Denver’s Department of Public Safety is working with state and federal partners to be prepared as best we can,” Christensen said.
The Denver Police Department, state patrol and the FBI declined to offer specifics on the possible demonstrations they’re aware of or how they’re preparing. The FBI warned of “armed protests” at all 50 states in the days leading up to and including Jan. 20, carried out by extremists groups, according to the AP.
Murphy Robinson, director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, met with officials from the FBI’s Denver office on Wednesday in anticipation of local protests related to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The planning meeting was to discuss what Robinson described as “domestic terrorism” during an appearance in front of a city council committee.
“I will tell you, the things that continue to happen in our country and in our state and our city are no easy task for the world of public safety,” said Robinson, who was at the council committee to discuss the Denver Police Department’s response to last years protests and riots.
As DPD prepares for more potential unrest, Chief of Police Paul Pazen on Wednesday admitted that his department is still learning how to manage large crowds safely, especially when a handful of violent people are laced within a mostly peaceful crowd of protesters practicing free speech.
Pazen said DPD is “preparing for a different set of challenges in the next few weeks and beyond.”
The Colorado State Patrol can now enforce city laws around the Capitol and governor’s mansion, Christensen said. Denver first gave state troopers more leeway during unrest last summer and has extended the order indefinitely.
“We support all those who plan to peaceably assemble in order to exercise their first amendment rights,” a CSP person said in a statement when asked how troopers were preparing for possible armed demonstrations. “Our agency is prepared for this potential activity and emphasizes the importance of a peaceful approach that allows for safe public discourse for all. Due to security reasons, we do not discuss our staffing or our measures in place.”
Federal officials have stood up an emergency operations center in Denver to monitor ongoing activities and protests in Colorado this weekend through Jan. 20. The ops center will operate 24 hours a day and will be staffed with intelligence and law enforcement officials sharing information and monitoring movements and social media. The center in Denver will be closely communicating with other ops centers across the country, including in Washington, D.C.
“Between now and the presidential inauguration on January 20, we will be maintaining a heightened posture to monitor for any emerging threats to the region. This is all part of the effort to ensure the safety of our communities,” said FBI spokeswoman Courtney Bernal in an email to reporters on Thursday.
Officials say they are hoping to harvest intelligence and tips that could aid ongoing investigations into what happened at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We are using all our investigative resources, to include human source information, as well as advanced technical and scientific tools, to identify the perpetrators of the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week,” Bernal said.
Three Coloradans have been arrested in connection to the break-in at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said he expects more arrests as evidence, mostly garnered from social media accounts, comes in.
The FBI wants tips on what people may have planned in coming days — or any information to help the ongoing investigation at the U.S. Capitol. Members of the public can call 303-629-7171 or visit fbi.gov/tips.