‘Stay away from downtown’: Raleigh’s mayor issues warning ahead of potential inauguration protest

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Raleigh’s mayor is not only having city employees work from home on Wednesday – she is urging citizens to stay away from downtown on Inauguration Day.

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said all employees will be telecommuting on Wednesday and that move was made out of an abundance of caution.

She’s also encouraging people to avoid downtown.

“I think it would be a good idea for people to stay away from downtown, especially the Capitol area, on Wednesday.”

Wake County offices located in downtown Raleigh will close in response to potential security issues tied to the inauguration.

The offices will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, Wake County officials confirm.

Offices were already closed on Monday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

County Manager David Ellis sent a note to county employees said the move was made out of an “abundance of caution.”

Photo showing boarded up windows at the NCDP HQ

“I’m closing all county offices near the State Capital (sic) in downtown Raleigh to the public and our non-public safety employees,” Ellis wrote.

Due to the heightened security risk next week, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party said the first floor windows of their office building in Raleigh have been boarded up. NCDP said they are also contracting Raleigh police to provide additional security.

Earlier this week, Gov. Roy Cooper mobilized about 550 National Guard personnel on Wednesday. Approximately 350 will help in Raleigh while the rest will go to Washington to assist with the inaugural events.

An FBI bulletin earlier this week warned of armed protests in all 50 state capitols as well as Washington in the days ahead. Following the attack at the U.S. Capitol, Cooper said dozens of states are sending personnel to the nation’s capital.  

Wake County made a similar move in May as protests gripped the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said law enforcement will have a “big challenges” in the coming days. 

“Law enforcement is certainly on notice after Jan. 6 of the potentiality for violence and I think are going to be out in force and very well-prepared,” he said. “Allowing the protests to go forward if they’re peaceful but being ready to respond with the manpower and the force that’s necessary to stop violence. Police have a tough job to try to draw that fine line.” 

Schanzer studies right-wing extremism and said he was not shocked that violence occurred at the Capitol last week.  

“As a society, we need to get a grip on how to combat ideas that are so much based in fantasy rather than reality. And, law enforcement and society, in general, will have to learn how to grapple with that,” he said. “With QAnon, you never know exactly what’s going to happen next and where the misinformation is going to come from and therefore where the violence might occur. So, I think those things present big challenges for law enforcement.” 

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