COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday activated 580 members of the Ohio National Guard to be available for use at the Ohio Statehouse and around the state between Jan. 14 and 21 as federal law enforcement warns of the potential for armed protests in the nation’s capital and at the capitals of all 50 states.
In addition to the 580 Guard members to be activated to provide safety and protection while ensuring the people's right to demonstrate peacefully in Ohio, 200 additional Guard members will be deployed in a federal status to Washington D.C. to support civil authorities with security-related missions throughout the presidential inauguration, with the scope and duration of their support to be determined by the U.S. Secret Service.
“People have the right to protest,” DeWine said. “They do not have the right to be destructive. They do not have the right to hurt other people. So there will be enough people there from law enforcement in the National Guard. But people have every right to protest. They have every right to do it peacefully. We welcome them [if] they want to do that. Whatever they want to protest about, that's — 365 days a year, people have a right to do that. First Amendment does not go on vacation. But we also saw what happened at the U.S. Capitol and, you know, we're very concerned.”
The FBI has sent a memo to authorities across the country, warning of the possibility of armed protests at all 50 state capitols starting this week and lasting through Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, ABC News, NBC News and The Associated Press report.
ABC News was the first to report the bulletin Monday, which also reportedly says the FBI received information about an armed group intending to travel to Washington D.C. on Jan. 16.
Law enforcement sources have told ABC News that federal law enforcement officials have advised local police to prepare for the possible protests with increased security measures at statehouses and other government buildings.
“So this is an activation of members of the National Guard to bring them up to the highest level that is needed and to be available for use in Washington and in the state of Ohio, Washington, D.C., in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said after reading the text of the order he signed Tuesday.
The roughly 200 members of the Ohio National Guard expected to head to the Capitol for Joe Biden’s inauguration isn’t unusual or out of the ordinary, DeWine said, adding, “This is a normal procedure.”
During DeWine's Tuesday conference, one reporter mentioned that DeWine activated over twice as many National Guard members — 1,200 — to go to Columbus and Cleveland during the protests over the summer after the death of George Floyd.
"Well, I haven't gotten to other things yet, so, we're talking with the Senate president and the speaker about other steps, so we're not done with steps," DeWine said. DeWine then defended his response to the police violence protests over the summer, saying he sent National Guard troops to cities at the request of the city's mayors, and over a longer period of time - not all at once.
"Further, we are constantly, since this tragedy in Washington, we have been reviewing and continue to review," DeWine said. "And I'm on conference calls with our intelligence people and with the National Guard General Harrison Wells, a colonel of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. So this is step one. I'm following the advice of General Harris as far as the number of National Guard at this point. Maybe more to come, we'll see."
The warning of more potential armed protests come after last Wednesday’s riots, where a mob of Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress held a joint session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. At least five people died as a result of the riots, including a Capitol police officer.
“I think about it a lot, and the images of what we saw on TV and continue to see even more every night as we see different angles and different shots of it is seared in my memory forever and on my mind,” DeWine said. “And it's something that I think about a lot.”
While the governor did not say whether he knows of any armed protests at the Ohio Statehouse or other locations in the state, he did confirm that Ohio National Guard members will be in Ohio during the times of the potential protests.
“I'm concerned, and I have instructed Highway Patrol, National Guard to be ready,” DeWine said. “So, yes, I'm concerned about it. I mean, we're activating members of the National Guard not just to go to Washington, we're activating them for here in Ohio.”
DeWine said he is concerned about how well-prepared the U.S. Capitol rioters were and said everyone should be concerned about what may happen in the coming days.
“We are concerned,” he said. “If you look at — the more information we see and this is what you're seeing, what's coming out about who some of these people were and how well prepared they were, it's something that every American should be concerned about.”