As President Joe Biden swore the oath of office Wednesday morning, the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, scene of more than 25 unpermitted protests since the November election, was very quiet.
There was also a changed security presence behind the chain fence marked by at least a temporary absence of Washington Army National Guard on sentry duty as they have often been in days past.
Up to 600 Washington National Guard personnel, as well as hundreds of Washington State Patrol troopers drawn from all over the state, have been on duty around the state Capitol since Jan. 6, when militant Trump supporters mobbed the U.S. Capitol. On that day in Olympia, dozens of people, some armed, made their way past a security gate door to trespass on the grounds of the governor’s mansion in a half-hour protest.
The cost of the security buildup has been considerable, totaling more than $1.6 million just for the State Patrol. Additional costs, as of Wednesday morning, for the Washington National Guard personnel who are lodged in hotels had not yet been tallied, said Karina Shagren, spokesperson for the Washington Military Department. But she expected the final figure to exceed the State Patrol’s costs.
In a briefing, State Patrol official Lt. Curt Boyle said that the state’s Fusion Center, a counterterrorism effort that investigates threats, has none that are considered credible and substantiated to the Olympia Capitol or to other buildings in the state.
In the days ahead, the security forces in Olympia are expected to be gradually drawn down. But that timetable — and how large the reductions should be — are under discussion by officials, according to Chris Loftis, a spokesman for the State Patrol.
Also uncertain is the long-term approach to security at the Capitol Campus amid heightened concerns about the potential for acts of violence.
“What that new page looks like as far security posture, profile, equipment, mobilization that would be needed going forward for a new environment of security concerns is yet to be determined,” Loftis said.
This week, some leadership in far-right groups, including the Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys, have counseled staying away from state capitols amid security buildups in the aftermath of the storming of the U.S. Capitol.
“People feel like they are going to get set up,” said Joey Gibson, founder of Patriot Prayer, on Tuesday as he joined with a few dozen people who attended a rally to protest COVID-19 restrictions in Napavine, Lewis County.
That Napavine rally mainly drew local residents who were focused on grievances by city planning commission members who have been unable to meet in the Town Hall due to the mayor’s decision to keep it closed.