Multiple law enforcement agencies preparing for potential armed protests at SC State House

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the South Carolina State House will be closed from January 16th to the 20th.

Officials with the Department of Public said they are working with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), City of Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff’s Department to ensure the safety and security of the South Carolina State House complex and surrounding facilities following a warning issued by the FBI about the potential for armed protests at the U.S. Capitol and State Capitols around the nation leading up to the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

According to a release, the agencies have come together to plan and prepare for the deployment of resources and have increased manpower at the complex and the surrounding area. Officials said out of an abundance of caution, the State House will be closed to all visitors until the 20th.

DPS Director Robert Woods said, β€œOur goal — first and foremost — is to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our State Capitol Complex and the surrounding area where our state’s citizens should be free to visit, participate in peaceful protests and our elected officials and personnel should feel safe to conduct business.”

The Department of Public Safety said beginning this weekend, the public should expect to see more law enforcement vehicles and a perimeter around the State House.

According to officials, the perimeter will include physical barriers and more law enforcement.

Additional law enforcement from the SC Department of Public Safety, augmented by local and state agencies, will be posted in the lobbies of each building on the State House Complex. Additionally, there will be signage on the grounds that will remind the public that no weapons are allowed on the State House grounds.

The South Carolina House of Representatives will hold meetings virtually next week. House Ways and Means Charmian Representative Murrell Smith (R- District 67) said the House will not miss a beat. “There is nothing we have to do on the floor right now, bills are working their way through committees with the new session,” he said.

The Senate plans to return on January 21st.

City of Columbia and Richland County officials held a press conference this afternoon to talk about their preparations. Mayor Steve Benjamin said, “We’re preparing for anything but we are optimistic that citizens will exercise the thoughtful discretion to make their views known.”

Law enforcement said they are prepared for possible protests on Sunday and Wednesday. Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said, “We’ll be there to support and protect those who choose to exercise their first amendment rights. We will not tolerate any lawlessness or civil unrest. The response will be immediate swift and certain.”

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