AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the possibility of unrest looms over the Joe Biden’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., the Austin Police Department has its own plan to address any incidents that may happen on Wednesday.
“We have a robust plan in place to ensure the safety of the citizens of Austin,” Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon said in a briefing Tuesday. “What I can tell you is we have no known threats to our area.”
While people will very obviously be gathering at the Texas State Capitol — currently closed and guarded by the Texas Department of Public Safety — police said they support people exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech.
Nevertheless, the department is currently on tactical alert in the event that any incidents do occur. Chacon explained what tactical alert means, saying in part:
“Every single officer on the department is in uniform, even those who don’t usually wear a uniform. And they are ready to respond at a moment’s notice with gear they would need to go into any situation where crowd control may be necessary.”
Brian Lynch, Executive Director of Safety and Security for RANE the Risk Assistance Network + Exchange, says law enforcement should show a strong presence all day.
“Whether that’s concrete barriers or a fencing system as well as personnel,” Lynch said. “It provides the protesters knowledge that this is protected, they’re taking it seriously and it’s going to be very difficult to breach that perimeter.”
Last week, Texas DPS announced the Capitol building and the grounds would remain closed through Inauguration Day because of “armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to conduct criminal acts.”
Austin police assisted state troopers to provide additional security at the capitol this past weekend when armed demonstrators gathered outside the grounds. However, the groups remained peaceful and dispersed after about four hours.
State capitols all across the country are stepping up security ahead of Biden’s swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C.
However, the national’s capitol is locked down — with dozens of streets spanning from Capitol Hill to downtown D.C. blocked off, 11 subway stations shut down and barbed wire topping the fences surrounding the Capitol.
Austin police sent 49 officers Monday to D.C. to assist the Metropolitan Police Department with inauguration security. Chacon said this is the fifth time the department deployed some of its members to help with this particular event. However, he noted this is a smaller number than previous inaugurations, because police wanted to have enough resources in Austin to deal with any potential issues.
He said they finished training Tuesday and will become deputized to serve as adjunct officers Wednesday in D.C.
Police said they have also been in close contact with both state and federal governments, in addition to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Obviously, this is something that is very concerning to all Americans,” Chacon said. “We don’t want to see mass assemblies get out of control. We don’t want to see people get hurt. And I feel that between us, our partners at the DPS, and our federal partners, that we have a good plan in place to make sure that Austin is kept safe. I expect folks will see that tomorrow.”