National Guard, state troopers to remain at Capitol in Olympia for start of legislative session

WSP said it’s the largest response at the Capitol in the state’s history and it serves two purposes, for protection but also to send a message about democracy.

OLYMPIA, Wash — New security measures at the state Capitol in Olympia were in place early Sunday in response to riots at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the governor’s mansion being breached earlier this week.

Fences have been put up at the Capitol around the statehouse and up to the legislative buildings in preparation for the start of the legislative session Monday.

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is tightening security around the Capitol and Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday activated 750 Washington State National Guard members and a “large” number of state troopers to help protect the Capitol Campus. The National Guard will be in place for at least 48 hours. 

“Because of proximity to the house and senate chambers and threats we’ve heard from folks to enter the building illegally and to be disruptive, the public’s not going to be allowed [in],” said Chris Loftis with WSP.

WSP said the response is the largest on the Capitol Campus in the state’s history and it serves two purposes, for protection but also to send a message about democracy. 

“The democratic process is important and we’re going to protect it. There were some people last week here and in Washington D.C. that disrespected that process and brought violence and we’re not going to allow that to happen,” said Loftis.  

Only lawmakers, staff members, and law enforcement will be allowed into the building Monday when the session starts. Access had already been restricted because of coronavirus concerns. 

Some demonstrators who were at the Capitol on Sunday said they disagreed.

“I can understand it, but at the same time it’s like we the people should be able to get into the Capitol as well…. regardless of COVID,” said Sue Coffman of Port Angeles.

RELATED: Washington National Guard called to protect Olympia Capitol Campus for start of legislative session Monday

While much of the National Guard and state troopers will be centered around the statehouse, they are prepared to respond to other buildings on the campus if there’s a problem — or to deal with conflicts between opposing protest groups who may show up. 

One group rallied at the Capitol Sunday to share frustrations about coronavirus restrictions, taxes and several other issues. Some of the attendees were armed. The event remained peaceful. 

A separate demonstration scheduled for Sunday was called off because of the state’s show of force. 

“I don’t know what would happen here. I know not only is there a chance for people to show up with nefarious intent, there’s also going to be a much stronger response from Gov. Inslee and the National Guard and it’s a volatile situation that I don’t want to put ourselves into,” said Matt Marshall with the group, 3% of Washington. 

Marshall said his group canceled their planned protest event for Sunday because they were concerned it would not be peaceful. He said he worries the fences will not be temporary and could make it harder for any group to share an opposing view or participate in their government.

“Will the process be as transparent? It’s concerning with the fact that that we can’t occupy space that belongs to the people,” Marshall said.

KING 5 asked WSP how long the fences and increased security would continue at the Capitol.

“We’re planning for Sunday and Monday and it could go beyond that. The fences will come down when the threat level comes down,” Loftis said.

After Wednesday’s security breach at the governor’s mansion, Loftis said WSP is reevaluating the situation at the Capitol and long-term changes may be necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

RELATED: Gov. Inslee responds after Trump supporters breach gate at his Olympia residence and US Capitol