ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers returned to the state Capitol for the start of a new legislative session with heightened security and new COVID-19 protocols.
One of the biggest differences visitors to the Georgia Capitol will see in 2021 -- a fence that is being erected around the entire building.
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot reported armed troopers standing guard outside the Capitol in downtown Atlanta on Monday. Some of the enhancements have been planned for months, like the fence, and some are a reaction to the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol last week.
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“I think it’s a little surreal right now. It’s quiet. Perhaps its maybe the calm before the storm,” said Stone Mountain lawmaker Karen Bennett.
An internal FBI bulletin warned that, as of Sunday, the nationwide protests may start later this week and extend through Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, according to two law enforcement officials who read details of the memo to The Associated Press. Investigators believe some of the people are members of some extremist groups, the officials said. The bulletin was first reported by ABC.
“Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January,” the bulletin said, according to one official. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The FBI issued at least one other bulletin — they go out to law enforcement nationwide on the topic — before the riots last week. On Dec. 29, it warned of the potential for armed demonstrators targeting legislatures, the second official said.
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Inside Georgia’s state Capitol, another layer of security is being dealt with this year as well.
For the first time ever, state lawmakers took their oath in four separate groups, masks are mandatory and each lawmaker and staff member is required to get tested for COVID-19 twice a week.
“I think we’re obviously better prepared. I like our level of preparation, but by the same token, I sure will be glad when we get past this,” House Speaker David Ralston said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report