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Arkansas governor says threat ‘not at level I’m bringing out national guard’ as states mull security for Biden inauguration

Griffin Connolly
·4-min read
The National Guard has been called up in DC and several states throughout the country in preparation for potential violent protests at the federal and state capitols. (Getty Images)
The National Guard has been called up in DC and several states throughout the country in preparation for potential violent protests at the federal and state capitols. (Getty Images)

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has not yet felt compelled to call in the National Guard to protect the state capitol in Little Rock, despite federal warnings of mass, possibly violent protests nationwide.

The governor has been monitoring intelligence reports, he told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace in an interview on Sunday, and the level of threats in his state has not lent itself to the kinds of actions other states are taking to protect their legislatures.

Mr Hutchinson’s comments reflect how the types of Donald Trump loyalists who laid siege to the Capitol building in Washington on 6 January are not blindly targeting every state and local government, especially those that have been sympathetic to the outgoing president’s politics.

Still, the Arkansas governor would not hesitate to call in the state’s National Guard if he eventually needs to.

“You want to be overprepared versus underprepared because you never want to see a repeat of what we saw on January 6 in our nation’s capital,” Mr Hutchinson told Mr Wallace.

But, in Arkansas, “it’s not to the level that I’m bringing out the National Guard".

The governor has said “civilian law enforcement” – that is, local police and sheriff departments – are securing the capital city of Little Rock.

"We’ll have response teams there. We’ll have beefed-up presence at the capitol for Tuesday,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“We don’t have any specific intelligence that there’s going to be violence associated with those rallies but we want to be extra cautious,” he said. “Every state has to look at their own intelligence matrix and make those kind of judgments.”

Mr Hutchinson’s approach to security in his own state was not intended to diminish the flood of security threats in other states, especially those with Democratic-dominated governments. Shortly following his comments, it was reported that small groups of armed protesters had gathered at state capitols in Texas, Ohio and Michigan.

“There is a historic threat from militia groups,” Mr Hutchinson said, pointing to loose organisations of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who have stirred up tensions all across the country in recent years, perhaps culminating in the 6 January attack on the federal legislature.

More than 300 pro-Trump radicals who stormed the Capitol have have been identified by federal law enforcement. Many of them have been arrested and indicted.

The threat from far-right extremists has been “diminished, but I’d say most states have elements of that threat, [and] it exists in Arkansas as well,” Mr Hutchinson said on Sunday.

After spending nearly a year casting doubt on the validity of a potential loss in the 2020 election and then two months challenging the actual results of the 3 November 2020 presidential election, Mr Trump finally accepted in the days following the Capitol riots that he will hand over power to President-elect Joe Biden on 20 January.

Mr Trump, whose inflammatory rhetoric and conspiracy theories about a “stolen election” many believe has radicalised Republican voters, urged his supporters to abstain from violent forms of protest in the coming days.

“I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind,” the president said in a written statement last Wednesday. “That is not what I stand for, and it is not what America stands for. I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers.”

It was too little too late for many in Congress, including 10 Republicans, as the president was impeached by the House for a second time just hours after releasing that statement.

Mr Hutchinson suggested on Sunday that Mr Trump bears at least some blame for raising tensions that snapped on 6 January.

“He asked all the people to come to Washington for the rally and then he used very aggressive language in the rally itself and he misled people as to what happened during the election, that it was stolen and that our checks and balances are not working,” the governor said.

The president’s persistent challenge to the 2020 was “wrong” for deluding his supporters into thinking he could actually remain in power, Mr Hutchinson said.

Such gaslighting “did not serve our nation well, and it was demonstrated on January 6,” the governor said.

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