January 14, 2021

Guv declares state of emergency as state prepares for ‘likely’ riots at government buildings

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

On Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency over “likely” riots at the state capitol and other government buildings this weekend and through next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The governor cited last week’s “violent insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol and “credible intelligence that threats of similar riots exist and are likely to occur at the capitol building and other prominent government buildings in all 50 states either before or on January 20, 2021.”

The declaration directs the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to direct the response and the Adjutant General of the New Mexico National Guard “to order into service any element of the New Mexico National Guard as may be needed to provide military support to civil authorities.”

Earlier this week, the FBI warned in an internal bulletin that some protesters are planning on “storming” all 50 state capitols, the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. and other government buildings including courthouses between now and Jan. 20.

New Mexico leaders told NM Political Report earlier this week that they are preparing for such a protest, as the first day of the New Mexico legislative session and Biden’s inauguration next week.

The FBI bulletin, according to ABC News, advised that local and state law enforcement beef up operations.

Earlier this week, workers began to erect a chain link fence around the state capitol, known as the Roundhouse. The building has been closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, a protest at the U.S. Capitol turned into a mob, where supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building, overwhelming police and driving Congress into hiding as they sought to certify the results of the election which showed Trump lost to former Vice President Joe Biden.

At the same time, protesters gathered at state capitols nationwide. While the protest in New Mexico was ultimately peaceful, Trump supporters stormed the Oregon state capitol, with the aid of a Republican state representative

Now, the reaction to the planned protests nationwide is leading to more security precautions.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said in a statement “the state takes any threat of violence seriously.”

She said the governor is briefed on “any potential or escalation” by New Mexico State Police, which she said is monitoring for threats.

“I’m sure legislative leadership will join the governor in expecting a peaceful and safe legislative session, but law enforcement will be prepared for any potential incidence or escalation of right-wing domestic terrorism, and we are grateful for their service,” Meyers Sackett said. “The New Mexico National Guard is always at the ready should they need to be called on to serve the people of New Mexico.”

Legislative leadership referred questions to the New Mexico Legislative Council.

Raul Burciaga, the director of the Legislative Council, did not offer any details about the preparations but said in a statement, “We are working with law enforcement and security officials on keeping the Capitol secure.” 

A spokesman for New Mexico State Police, Ray Wilson, said they are monitoring situations and “Given the current climate in our country, we will not rule out such events taking place during the upcoming legislative session, or on Inauguration Day; or in the days and weeks surrounding either event, for that matter.”

Wilson said state police are “are prepared to respond to events of civil unrest” and are collaborating with local law enforcement partners.