AUGUSTA — A heavier-than-usual police presence patrolled the grounds of the Maine State House for much of the day Sunday, bracing for a protest that never happened.

Maine and other states had been on high alert amid ongoing concerns that extremist groups would gather in several states more than a week after a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Although some state capitols saw demonstrations, widespread gatherings across the country never materialized.

In Maine, authorities were prepared. Early Sunday morning, two Capitol Police cruisers were parked outside the State House. Concrete Jersey barriers blocked the Capitol Street entrance and the road between the Burton Cross state office building and the State House also was obstructed with parked plow-style trucks. The trucks stayed until midafternoon.

Later in the morning, about a dozen Maine State Police troopers with shields and what looked like riot gear were dropped off at the Cross building. Both state police and Capitol police could be seen coming and going from the building throughout the morning.

Across the street, the Blaine House, where Gov. Janet Mills lives, also was quiet Sunday. A state police cruiser could be seen parked in the back, but there was no activity outside or around the executive mansion.

Maine State Police, wearing tactical gear, prepare to depart the Maine State House grounds after an uneventful day on Sunday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Police continued to circle the buildings into the afternoon, both on foot and in cruisers, unmarked vans and SUVs. Some of the state police troopers could be seen leaving shortly after 2 p.m.


Occasionally, drivers slowed down in the area, appearing to scope it out to see if anything was going on. Three students from the University of Maine at Farmington came by in hopes of talking to protesters and said they were relieved not to find any.

“I think it’s important to talk to the other side and listen to what they’re saying,” Sam True, 18, of Whitefield, said. “I’m kind of happy that no one’s here. It shows that not many Mainers are willing to go along with the idea that this election was stolen.”

Around sunset, the area around the State House was still quiet. Officers patrolling on foot had disappeared, and only a few dog walkers strolled the Capitol grounds. Capitol Police made occasional passes in their cruisers as night fell.

Public safety and intelligence officials have been monitoring information, mostly on right-wing social media, about planned events beginning Sunday and running through Wednesday, when President-elect Joe Biden is to be sworn into office. Many supporters of outgoing President  Trump, who has relentlessly challenged the election as stolen, have answered his calls to fight back, even as members of his own party have said he bears responsibility for the attack on Jan. 6 that left five people dead.

Although much of the attention has been focused on Washington, D.C., the FBI has warned about the possibility of armed protests by extremists in all 50 states.

The police presence in Augusta, while unusual, didn’t match the show of force in some other states, including nearby Massachusetts, where hundreds of uniformed police in Boston stood guard at that city’s gold-domed State House around noon, according to The Boston Globe.


Small protests popped up in other states on Sunday afternoon, the Associated Press reported. About two dozen people, several carrying long guns, protested outside the Ohio Statehouse, observed by several of the dozens of state troopers positioned around the building. Several dozen people – some carrying American flags – gathered at South Carolina’s Statehouse. And at Michigan’s Capitol, a small group of demonstrators, some armed, stood near a chain-link fence surrounding the building as state police walked the grounds and National Guard vehicles were parked nearby. As darkness began to fall, there were no reports of any clashes, according to the AP.

Mills late last week announced that she had activated the Maine National Guard and put them on standby “out of an abundance of caution,” although so far there have been no signs suggesting any security threats.

“There is no credible evidence at the moment to suggest that any protests that may occur in Augusta will be anything other than peaceful,” the governor said in a statement Friday. “But based on what we saw last week at the U.S. Capitol, and like many of my fellow governors across the country, I am activating the National Guard out of an abundance of caution. Doing so allows them to be ready to act in the event their support is needed.”

Planning and coordination for any protests started this month. Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills said last week that his department has worked with county, state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure safety in and around Augusta.

“Our agencies are always lockstep to ensure there is adequate resources to maintain safety and order,” the chief said in a statement.

Augusta police officers return to their station next to the Capitol with crowd suppression equipment on Sunday. They were posted as a precaution following reports of possible armed protests at capitols across the country. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Some pro-Trump Mainers on social media continued to question the election results during the week leading up to Sunday, but some warned each other not to attend state capitol protests out of fear that they could be “setups” for protesters to be arrested and have their guns confiscated.


On the Facebook group “Maine for Trump,” one member’s call for direct action was met with a tepid response, with one commenter responding, “This is probably the FBI.”

Another Facebook page, “Maine Trump Rallies,” cautioned its followers last week that “many are trying to take away our freedoms and ensnare us in their traps.”

“There are NO rallies planned in Maine at this moment and of course there will NEVER be any that promote violence,” reads the post from last week.

In addition to the Maine Guard members on standby, others were sent to Washington, D.C., last week to assist with security efforts there leading up to and including the presidential inauguration. Many other states offered assistance as well.

Security in the U.S. capital has intensified in the last week. Tall fencing with razor wire now surrounds the U.S. Capitol and the iconic National Mall is closed to the public.

Staff Writers Rachel Ohm, Rob Wolfe and Jessica Lowell contributed to this report.

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