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While Armed Protesters Are Nothing New At The Texas Capitol, A Heavy Police Presence Is

January 12, 2021; Austin, TX
Ricardo B. Brazziell | USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
DPS state troopers protect the second floor of the Capitol on the first day of the 87th Legislature on Tuesday.

The Texas legislature kicked off a new session on Tuesday, a mere six days after a violent mob breached the U.S. capitol. What the 87th legislative session lacked in action on the floor, it made up for with a large police presence.

More than a hundred state troopers in full tactical gear stood outside the entrances. Some officers monitored the capital grounds, and many more roamed inside.

Less than a week after pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, San Antonio Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said the day was much more somber than usual.

“There's nothing like getting well wishes in the morning from friends and family and constituents, wishing me well, and at the same time, reading a security briefing from the colonel of our state police to let us know about known threats, that may or may not be coming to the Capitol, and I've been on legislature now 20 years — I've never experienced that,” Martinez Fischer said.

ABC News reported on Monday that the FBI had issued a nationwide bulletin about expected armed protests at state capitols over the 2020 presidential election results running up through inauguration day.

A man identifying himself as “General E" joined about 20 heavily armed protesters from the Southern Patriots Council on Tuesday morning.

“Well, we have election fraud, proof of that. A guy that's supposedly going to end up being president. He's not Joe Biden, who is a career criminal,” he said.

According to the group's Facebook page, it is a pro-Confederacy group. General E and other members share similar views as last week’s extremists.

“They only broke laws because the DC police didn't do their job,” he said.

Among other things, the group advocated for Texas secession.

The presence of protestors and heavy law enforcement created a strange feeling, as one lawmaker put it. San Antonio Democrat Diego Bernal said people were apprehensive. Armed protests are nothing new at the capitol, he added, but the events of last week cast everything in a new light.

“We've got elected leadership that has been relatively silent on what happened last week," Bernal said. "We also have leadership that has fallen over itself to make the Capitol as gun friendly and gun accessible as possible.”

He added that in the end, everyone wants to do the people’s business. And this year, they may have to do it with the specter of violence and COVID-19 hanging in the air.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org