State capitals, including Tallahassee, are bracing for potential violence on Sunday

By: - January 17, 2021 11:48 am

A group of Florida law enforcement officers on the roof of the FL House of Representatives’ office building. Credit: Danielle J. Brown.

Update: A small number of counter-protesters showed up outside the Florida Capitol complex at around 2 p.m. but expressed surprise at the lack of people protesting Donald Trump’s election defeat.

“You were brainwashed by a fascist,” their sign read.

Counter-protesters appeared outside the Florida Capital on Jan. 17 but were surprised to find a lack of President Trump’s supporters following a warning of potential violent protests. Credit: Diane Rado/Florida Phoenix

There was one problem: They’d attached their placard to a baseball bat. Police made them return the bat to their car and they were forced to hold up their sign with their hands.

A few motorists beeped their car horns but it wasn’t clear what message they were sending.

At least one helicopter hovered around the Capitol Complex as well as a drone.

The governor’s press office didn’t respond to a question about his whereabouts.

Update: Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said during a 1 p.m. news conference in a downtown park that he was happy the day remained quiet.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey told reporters he was happy downtown was peaceful on Jan. 17, 2021. Credit: Michael Moline/Florida Phoenix

“I have not been briefed on any specific threat,” Dailey said.

In fact, the only specific threat uncovered thus far involved the arrest Friday of a man federal authorities described as a self-described “anarchist” who they said appeared to be amassing weapons and recruiting followers to attack Trump supporters if they arrived in Tallahassee.

Dailey suggested news of that arrest and of official preparation for potential protests might have discouraged potential troublemakers.

“It’s another beautiful day in Tallahassee,” he said.

“Look, we are prepared just in case. My message to anybody that wants to come to Tallahassee for violent reasons or the destruction of property: Stay home. It’s the same message that you hear from my colleagues that are mayors of other capital cities across the United States. We are not a violent community, nor will we tolerate violence.”

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Some buildings in downtown Tallahassee boarded their windows as a precaution against potential violence on Sunday and in coming days. Credit: Laura Cassels

Following a quiet Saturday in Florida’s state capital, some activity emerged Sunday as capitals around the country brace for potential violence following the Washington, D.C., mob riot on Jan. 6.

State capitals are on alert through at least the inauguration of Joe Biden as president this coming Wednesday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday activated the National Guard in Tallahassee and also sent guardsmen to Washington, D.C.

In Florida’s Capitol complex downtown on Sunday, security is tightening, with law enforcement vehicles blocking the area at the Leon County courthouse, across the street from the Capitol complex in Tallahassee. Some windows are boarded downtown near the Capitol.

Buses were parked alongside the courthouse Sunday.

Law enforcement officers are on high ground, including on the Tallahassee City Hall roof and the Florida House office building.

The complex includes the Florida Historic Capitol as well as the Capitol complex that includes House and Senate office buildings.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Department and other law-enforcement vehicles, along with large buses, were staged Sunday near the Leon County Courthouse, across the street from Florida’s capitol complex. Credit: Tim Hyde

Few pedestrians were in the area, but they didn’t appear to be protesting. Overall, the streets around the complex were quiet about 11 a.m. Sunday.

The Florida Phoenix has been keeping watch at the various buildings in the state capital, including the Capitol complex, the Florida Supreme Court, the federal court in Tallahassee, the Governor’s Mansion, the Florida National Guard and the Florida Press Center.

Thus far, there are no visible protests.

In Washington, D.C., Trump supporters and extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, leaving at least five people dead, in a failed attempt to stop Congress from ratifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which long has monitored hate groups and is tracking their social-media chatter, said earlier that Florida is not the most likely of targets — certainly not as likely a target as the capitals in Michigan, where extremists plotted the kidnapping of the Democratic governor, and Georgia, which just replaced two Republican senators with two Democrats, flipping control of the U.S. Senate.

Phoenix Editor Diane Rado, Deputy Editor Michael Moline and reporter Danielle J. Brown contributed to this report.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]

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