AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills has drawn the Maine National Guard into security planning for the State House and Capitol complex as the state prepares to defend the seat of government, if necessary, against attacks by far-right groups in conjunction with the upcoming presidential inauguration.

The governor’s spokeswoman said Thursday that the Guard has not been formally activated, but will be called upon if needed and is involved in security preparations with the Maine State Police and other agencies. Governors in other states took similar measures in the face of the threat of violence in state capitals nationwide.

In other security measures in Augusta, new screening systems and access restrictions have gone into effect at the State House and the adjacent Burton J. Cross State Office Building. And the state’s top administrative official is urging remote workers whose jobs require occasional trips to the State House complex to avoid doing so through next week.

The steps follow the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., last week that was spurred on by President Trump. On Wednesday, the U.S. House voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the insurrection that left five dead in its wake. It was the second time Trump has been impeached.

In Augusta, a new temporary screening checkpoint was established and doors typically left open during business hours have been locked in both the State House and the Cross Building. The buildings are now accessible only to state government employees, lawmakers or others with authorized key cards. Others who need to access the buildings are required to pass through the screening checkpoint metal detectors, while any bags are searched or X-rayed.

Besides the Legislature and the governor’s offices, the State House complex also houses the offices for the attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, Department of Education and Maine Revenue Service. Employees, most of whom are still working remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions, were made aware of the heightened security measures in a memo sent Wednesday afternoon by Kirsten Figueroa, the commissioner of the Department of Administration and Financial Services.


“As a state employee, you should know that there are no credible threats to the State House or to the Capitol area known at this time,” Figueroa said. “That said, as a proactive measure, the Governor’s Office and Presiding Officers (of the Legislature) have agreed to temporarily increase security at the State House and the Cross Office Building from today through the end of the day on Friday, Jan. 22, unless modified before that time.”

Figueroa noted that public access to the Cross Office Building may be restricted to just the entrance on the south side of the building. She also reminded those with access badges to not let others into the building.

“Per usual, no matter your office location, badge holders should be diligent to not allow non-badge holders to ‘piggy back’ through doors that are otherwise locked,” Figueroa wrote. “As they are preemptive, these security measures need not cause alarm.”

Figueroa also asked those who are working remotely but who make occasional trips to their State House offices to refrain from coming in until at least Jan. 22.

“This is in deference to the important work of law enforcement at this time – and will support the safety of those whose operational duties must be performed from a state office,” she wrote.

The FBI is warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.


“The Maine Information Analysis Center (MIAC), remains in contact with Federal partners – including the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others – to maintain situational awareness about the potential for civil unrest activities,” Katy England, a spokeswoman for Maine’s Department of Public Safety said in a prepared statement Thursday.

England said MIAC also was tracking the potential for “Maine-based civil unrest independently, analyzing intelligence and tips received, and will work with partners to respond appropriately and as needed.”

England said state officials were specifically tracking and preparing for “potential events” in Augusta on Sunday and Wednesday, the day of Biden’s inauguration.

“The Maine National Guard is engaged in these planning discussions with the department should additional support be needed,” England said.

Lindsay Crete, the press secretary for Mills, said the National Guard in Maine had not been activated but is participating in the security planning for the State House complex.

“They are available if needed,” Crete said.


Mills announced Wednesday that she had authorized the deployment of up to 200 Guard members to Washington, D.C., to assist with security and crowd control at the inauguration.

Nationally, state capitols were targeted in 2020 by right-wing activists – often carrying military-style firearms and wearing bulletproof vests – agitating against COVID-19 restrictions.

In April, armed protesters forced their way into the Michigan State House to object to pandemic-related lockdowns.

In August, self-styled “patriots,” anti-vaccination groups and other protesters temporarily derailed a special legislative session in Idaho that was called to address pandemic-related election issues. And less than a month ago, crowds forced their way into the state Capitol in Salem, Oregon, to protest the building’s closure to the public during a special legislative session on coronavirus measures.

In Maine, the State House and the nearby governor’s mansion, the Blaine House, have been the site of frequent protests against COVID-19 restrictions Mills put in place with her executive orders.

The most recent protest in Maine occurred Saturday, when a group of about 20 people gathered in Augusta to protest COVID-19 restrictions and requirements aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. Among the protesters were at least two men who were dressed in camouflage carrying firearms.


England said Thursday that no groups had yet requested a permit to hold a rally or protest on state property in Augusta, a requirement of the Capitol Police.

Beyond a more visible police presence at various entrances to the two buildings and a scattering of maintenance workers and delivery personnel, the complex was mostly devoid of people on Thursday.

Additional guards at entrances to the buildings may be an effort to prevent others from allowing protesters into the building, as occurred in Oregon last month. On Dec. 21, video surveillance cameras at the Oregon Capitol captured footage of a Republican state representative letting protesters into the building.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Monday that Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman had been removed from the legislative committees he had been assigned to and was fined $2,000 for damage that occurred after he allowed demonstrators into the building. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, has told Nearman he should resign for having broken the public’s trust.

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