La. National Guard, others prepare for possible ‘armed protests’; experts weigh in

Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:04 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The National Guard in Louisiana along with local, state, and federal law enforcement are preparing for possible acts of violence outside of the nation’s capital following the siege of the U.S. Capitol last week.

Still, the new threats of possible widespread domestic terrorism raise questions about whether that presents new challenges. An FBI bulletin warns that armed protests could start this week and stretch into next week for Joe Biden’s inauguration as America’s new president.

Jim Bernazzani is a former FBI Special Agent in Charge who oversaw the New Orleans FBI office.

“This could be obviously potentially catastrophic, but we have 200 FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout our 56 field divisions in this country and they are on full alert and that’s where our strength is,” said Bernazzani.

Still, he said the public continues to have a role to play in helping law enforcement thwart plots.

“The value is intelligence and that’s the general public; if you see something report it,” said Bernazzani.

Tulane University Prof. Rebecca Rouse is Associate Director of Emergency and Security Studies at Tulane University. She is a retired Army Lt. Colonel.

“We’ve heard and we’ve seen on social media there’s some expectation that maybe groups will protest wherever they are, it won’t just happen in D.C. Will it be violent? We don’t know,” said Rouse. “Well, communities don’t want to wait and find out and say, wow, we need re-enforcement and help now, they want to be prepared in advance.”

Major Noel Collins of the Louisiana National Guard says the guard stands ready to support the governor and any state and local agency as it normally does. She said the guard is prepared to assist with any protests and is trained and ready to protect the citizens of Louisiana.

Thousands of National Guard troops will be in the nation’s capital for the inaugural of Biden and governors can activate them too.

Rouse says regardless of who calls up the troops they are given instructions on what kind of force they can use in the homeland.

“It’s called Rules for Use of Force; it’s the equivalent of Rules for Use of Engagement overseas. In the domestic environment it has to be published what are the rules for use of force,” said Rouse. “So, they too will be issued a written order, if you will, that tells them what the parameters are of what kind of force they can use,” said Rouse.

Unlike the 911 attacks, it is Americans who are suspected of plotting terrorism to disrupt their own country. Bernazzani was asked whether that scenario could complicate matters for law enforcement.

“Oh, absolutely because a foreign adversary is known as international terrorists, a fellow American who engages in death and destruction is domestic terrorism and that’s a fundamentally different program, I worked both,” he said.

And now law enforcement is bracing for homegrown terrorism.

“I am never nervous, but I am concerned. I’ve spoken to my friends; some are family members who are in law enforcement to include the FBI and they’re ready. They are on a state of alert,” Bernazzani stated.

Rouse said communication among law enforcement agencies has improved since the Oklahoma City bombing and the 911 attacks. She points to the federal Department of Homeland Security.

“DHS has a tremendous role in, in monitoring, in intercepting, in thwarting terrorists’ activities, of course, the FBI has the investigative element of that as well, the law enforcement part,” she said.

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