Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker activated the Illinois National Guard Friday and crews began boarding up windows at the statehouse to protect the state Capitol complex from possible armed violence ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in.
Pritzker’s deployment of 250 Guard members to downtown Springfield comes in response to an FBI bulletin earlier this week warning of armed protests in all 50 state capitals and potential disruptions to Biden’s inauguration itself.
“We will be adequately protected,” the governor said during a briefing with reporters Friday, though he added he was unaware of any threats specifically targeting the state Capitol building.
Meanwhile, crews from the Office of the Capitol Architect spent Friday boarding up first-floor and basement windows around the statehouse in an unprecedented precaution to fend off any potential marauders supporting President Trump’s false election narrative.
Additionally, Pritzker ordered up another 100 Guard members to join 200 Illinois troops already deployed to the nation’s capital, following last week’s insurrection by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump.
“Following the violent siege at our nation’s Capitol and reports from federal law enforcement on threats to state capitals, I am bringing all resources to bear to protect our residents and our democratic process,” Pritzker said earlier Friday in a statement.
“Our exemplary members of the Illinois National Guard will be working closely with our State Police as well as local and federal authorities to keep our capital city safe,” he said. “We will continue to be fully transparent with the public on any new information and the steps we are taking to respond.”
The governor’s statement said the National Guard would not interfere with any peaceful protests that might arise in Springfield this weekend or next week, and the 250 Guard members will “aide local authorities in enforcing street closures and designated perimeters.”
At least two people from Illinois have been charged in the riot, including a suburban man who has since been fired from his tech startup and a Roselle tattoo artist.
In other developments Friday, the governor avoided any condemnation of newly seated Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch over a 2002 police report involving domestic battery against a woman. No charges were filed as a result of the event, which state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said should warrant further scrutiny.
In a Friday interview with WCIA-TV, the Champaign-based CBS affiliate, Welch, of Hillside, denied hitting the woman.
“Let me say that Speaker Welch answered questions repeatedly from the caucus, and I think that’s one of the reasons he ultimately was elected, that he adequately answered those questions to the caucus,” Pritzker said.
“Speaker Welch has addressed that publicly,” the governor continued. “He’s been asked publicly about it. He’s been asked privately about it and has earned the support of many women and women’s groups. I think that’s important to point out in the context of the questions that have been asked.”