United States Capitol Police have been monitoring social media posts about the attack on the Capitol as the agency and other law enforcement around Washington step up security for the state address. Union on Tuesday.
Among the security measures taken ahead of the speech, authorities erected a non-scalable fence around the Capitol over the weekend — over the objection of the House Republican Sergeant-at-Arms — as security remains a political debate at Capitol Hill.
Intelligence analysts still believe the United States remains in a heightened threat environment with possible violence directed at lawmakers and law enforcement, according to a bulletin from the Capitol Police Intelligence Division and the interagency coordination released in recent days.
“Over the past month, elected officials, government buildings and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States have been targeted by violent actors,” the bulletin said.
The bulletin also noted that social media calls for violence targeting the Capitol remain widespread. “January 6 supporters perpetuate adversarial comments on social media platforms and many have called for ambitious targeting of SOTU,” the bulletin said.
Examples of concerning social media posts include a post comparing the January 8, 2023, uprising in Brazil to the January 6, 2021, uprising at the United States Capitol, and criticizing the January 6 rioters for not having “finished”.
“That was the problem with J6. You can’t do it halfway,” the user said.
Other posts speculated on the return of former President Donald Trump and called for the execution of officials in President Joe Biden’s administration as well as Biden’s arrest by the House Sergeant-at-Arms.
The bulletin also noted that increased police scrutiny following incidents, such as the death of Tire Nichols, could make the State of the Union a focal point for protests.
The bulletin pointed out that there was no specific credible threat related to the event.
The fence was erected after Sergeant-at-Arms William McFarland voted against it last week, according to a source familiar with the Capitol Police Board’s vote. The other two members of the Capitol Police Board, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Karen Gibson and Capitol Architect J. Brett Blanton, voted to erect the fence.
McFarland, recently appointed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, did not believe the closure was necessary given the lack of intelligence suggesting a credible threat or large protests planned, the source said. Previous addresses on the State of the Union have been secured without fencing, the source added, and the cost “to make the campus look like a military fortress was unnecessary.”
Two years after the Jan. 6 riot, the Capitol Police Board is now split, with the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms named Democrat and the House Sergeant-at-Arms Republican. Blanton was nominated by former President Trump in 2019.
The political split will push different opinions about security onto the Capitol Police Board’s agenda, and the State of the Union presented the first test of how the new board will work.