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Gov. Inslee activates National Guard to be in Olympia at start of 2021 session

Trump supporters taunt counter-protesters during political clashes on Dec. 12, 2020 in Olympia, Washington. Far-right and far-left groups squared off near the Washington State Capitol following violent clashes over the previous weekend. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

As the Legislature is set to convene for the 2021 session Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he has activated the Washington State National Guard to be in Olympia in coordination with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and local law enforcement.

“I am authorizing up to 750 members of the Guard and a large number of Washington State Patrol troopers will be on hand, in addition to the regular Capitol Campus security contingent,” Inslee said in a statement.

The governor says the National Guard’s role will be to support WSP “in their mission to protect Washingtonians, legislators, their staff and the buildings of the Washington State West Capitol Campus.”

The actions in Washington, D.C., and in Olympia earlier this week sparked this decision.

“As legislators begin their work on behalf of the people of the state of Washington, we must do whatever we can to ensure that they can do that work without fear, intimidation or harassment,” Inslee said. “The actions we saw in both Washington, D.C. and Olympia earlier this week were completely unacceptable and will not be repeated in our state capitol again.”

There will be space on campus for people to exercise their First Amendment rights, but there will also be restricted areas open only for legislators and staff. The statement from the governor says these areas will be clearly delineated by fencing and security.

“But in light of the most recent insurrection activity, the state cannot tolerate any actions that could result in harm, mayhem or interruption of function of democratic institutions,” Inslee said.

Lawmakers, protesters prepare for legislative session in Olympia next week

At least one group — Liberty, At All Hazards — was helping to organize an action to protest the fact that the public cannot enter legislative chambers this year to see and interact with legislators in person. But a member of the group, Tyler Miller, told KIRO Radio their plans have changed.

“The likelihood of our event being infiltrated and hijacked was just too great to risk other peoples’ lives,” Miller said.

However, that does not mean other demonstrators won’t carry out their own plans to be outside the doors to legislative buildings each day during the session.

“We sincerely hope for peaceful actions but if that does not happen, we will be prepared,” Inslee said.

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