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Officials brace for potential violence in Santa Fe

The State Capitol has been fenced off and “no trespassing” signs have been hung in preparation for possible unrest ahead of the presidential inauguration. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Members of the New Mexico National Guard have been deployed to Santa Fe, the U.S. Postal Service has removed collection boxes from the area around the Roundhouse, and the FBI is staffing a command post due to the potential for violence at capitol buildings in all 50 states ahead of the presidential inauguration next week.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said he has talked with mayors across the country, as well as the governor and law enforcement. He said they know there will be demonstrations this weekend, and he and the police chief have urged protesters to be peaceful.

“The right to protest, the right to speak your opinion and have your voice heard is guaranteed by the Constitution,” Webber said. “We respect it and it is an absolute foundational part of our democracy. What is not protected by the Constitution is inciting a mob to violence. People in our city have the right and the expectation that they’ll be safe, and that their security will be a priority for this city government and the state of New Mexico.”

Late Friday, the mayor issued a proclamation of emergency due to civil unrest. The proclamation asks the city’s leadership to coordinate with the state’s emergency response, and for employees who are not involved in public safety to avoid downtown and the Capitol as much as possible. It asks the public to protect and respect life, property, peace and liberties, maintain civil liberties and “engage in reflection regarding how to come to common understandings as a community and protect and preserve our democracy and government.”

The proclamation will last three days, but it may be extended.

Local leaders of both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of New Mexico stressed that they are not focusing on free speech or peaceful protests, but they are preparing for violent demonstrations. Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C., last week following a protest and rally.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico is working closely with the FBI and our other federal law enforcement partners, and we are prepared to act if there is a nexus to our jurisdiction that warrants federal charges,” acting U.S. Attorney for New Mexico Fred Federici said in a statement.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said federal agents are working with federal, state and local agencies to monitor threats and share intelligence.

“FBI assets are on standby to support investigations and respond to any potential threats of violence to the state Capitol, federal buildings, and other key facilities,” Fisher wrote in a news release.

On Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state emergency, putting the New Mexico National Guard on standby. Members of the guard, which has about 4,000 soldiers and airmen in its ranks, also have been deployed to Washington.

Some members of the Guard could be seen Friday afternoon walking through the state Capitol grounds, along with local law enforcement, surveying the area. In addition to erecting fencing, officials have set up several concrete roadblocks along the roadways leading to the complex. Security cameras and no trespassing signs have also been put up.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service temporarily removed three mail collection boxes from within a half mile of the Roundhouse and is closing a nearby facility at noon Saturday.

In a news release, the Postal Service said the changes were “security preparations for the potential upcoming civil events” and meant “to protect the mail and the public.”

Journal staff writer Isabella Alves contributed to this report.


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