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Yes to fencing at the Roundhouse

Fencing went up around the Roundhouse last week, a precautionary measure given reports of possibly violent protests at state Capitols around the country before Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

That fencing that’s gone up around the Roundhouse is not part of an effort to enforce COVID-era social distancing as the Legislature prepares to convene on Tuesday.

The barrier instead was the most visible local reaction, as of late last week, to threats of political violence around the country in the wake of the takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6.

Unfortunately, the Roundhouse fence, and more serious measures, appear to be absolutely necessary.

Before Jan. 6, much of the crazy talk, military costuming and showing off with guns by extremist groups and some of Trump’s hard-core supporters may have seemed like mere cosplay, almost innocent outlets for bluster and machismo.

Isn’t that part of the legal defense for the nut-jobs who concocted a plan to kidnap the governor of Michigan and put her “on trial” somewhere? They were really just play-acting when they staked out the governor’s vacation home, right?

On the day of the insurrection in Washington, D.C., a crowd that included members of the Proud Boys and people wearing QAnon apparel – promoting the idea that cannibalistic pedophiles run the federal government – rallied in Santa Fe.

The leader of New Mexico-based Cowboys for Trump attended the rally in Washington that day and later posted a video in which he warned, “There’s going to be a lot of blood running out of that building,” referencing a possible 2nd Amendment rally at the U.S. Capitol.

After the shock of the Jan. 6 Capitol assault during which five people died, it’s obviously time to take these groups and this kind of rhetoric seriously.

Freshman state Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, was quoted last week as saying installation of the Roundhouse fences “seems like fear-mongering” and was “embarrassing.”

Lord is a gun rights advocate and might be ready to fight back if Roundhouse security is breached. But a better idea is to take all necessary measures, such as the fencing, to prevent violence in light of the reports of plans for pro-Trump rallies at all 50 state capitols in the days before Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration.

Many Santa Feans will feel the urge to come out to counter-protest should one of these Trump rallies take place here. It could be argued that a better course would be just to ignore the Stop the Steal crowd at this point, with the election settled despite Trump’s months-long effort to overturn American democracy. Any of those who do rally against the pro-Trump groups should do their best to avoid interactions that could lead to fisticuffs, or worse.

We don’t know yet, of course, whether the Jan. 6 invasion of the national seat of government will be a kind of ending – a horrible, but standalone, send-off to the Trump years – or an ignition point for more political violence in the U.S.

In any case, law enforcement agencies in Santa Fe and New Mexico appear to have gotten the message. We’ve seen what can happen when, in these unusual, chaotic and divisive political times, proper defenses aren’t mounted in response to evidence of planned attacks.

Rep. Lord complained last week that the Roundhouse fencing makes the Capitol grounds look like a demilitarized zone. Regrettably, the state Capitol instead probably will look very militarized over the next two months as the Legislature meets, a sad but necessary precaution at this point in American history.