Steve Warters drove two hours to Springfield from his home in Tuscola Wednesday thinking the streets would be teeming with supporters of President Donald Trump, like himself.
Instead, Warters found streets closed around the the Capitol Complex and Illinois National Guard troops with rifles patrolling intersections.
"I feel like we have to continue to work to offset the atrocities (that happened in Washington, D.C.) today," said Warters, referring to the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
"I’m afraid people are taking for granted what has happened or what could happen to our country. I’ve followed this since the day Trump came down the escalator (announcing his presidential run in 2016) and we’ve seen the height of the country and I feel we’re in the downhill side as far as socialism goes."
A handful of protesters showed up on the steps of the Illinois Capitol Building, though several wouldn’t give their names.
Warters, a farmer in Douglas County, stood at Second and Monroe streets with a Springfield woman holding a sign that read "’Election’ 2020, American Coup, The World Knows." (The woman, a U.S. Army veteran, also declined to give her name.)
The state Capitol, along with other buildings in the complex, were closed Wednesday out of an abundance of caution as security remained tight after the FBI received threats against all 50 state capitol buildings.
National Guard troops, along with the Illinois State Police and the Secretary of State Capitol Police, are once again positioned around the complex and at other state buildings in the downtown area.
Streets around the complex were also shut down, including Second Street at Monroe Street, Capitol Avenue at Fourth Street, Second at Cook Street, Spring Street at Edwards Street, Monroe at College Street and Pasfield Street at Edwards.
Meters remain bagged along Monroe and Capitol.
"We have taken a little more of a secure posture today," said Maj. A.J. Ruggieri, a public affairs officer for the Illinois National Guard. "Other than that, we’re continuing with the mission we’ve been given which is to support local enforcement the best way we can."
Warters, a Vietnam veteran, said he thought the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in five deaths and dozens of arrests, was "staged."
"I think the people who took part in it were brought in by George Soros and his group, maybe. The defense for the Capitol wasn’t out there. It wasn’t set up the way it was supposed to be set up."
Soros, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, has long been a target of conspiracy theories.
Warters said he didn’t think Trump was done and would be "a thorn in (the Democrats’) side from day one."
Wearing a "Trump, Keep America Great" hat, Warters said he got "lots of waves from passers-by."
Ruggieri said the National Guard is "definitely assessing the situation, watching it as it unfolds. Our essential mission is to support law enforcement. We’ll be here as long as they need us."
Ruggieri said generally the public has supported the National Guard’s presence, which has also stretched out to the Old State Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
"We have seen a lot of support, community groups that have come out to express their gratitude," he said. "There have been instances where people drive by and shout out their windows how grateful they are. We as guardsmen and guardswomen certainly appreciate that. It gives us a sense of pride to be out here, to know the community appreciate what we’re doing.
"We are citizen soldiers. At this time last week, we were probably at our normal jobs doing our normal thing but now this week we’re giving a little bit of a presence to protect these buildings in the capital."
Springfield Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki issued a statement Wednesday saying that he is praying that Biden "will be an effective and virtuous leader of our great nation and that he will truly seek healing and unity, which will necessarily include respect for the God-given freedom of people of faith to practice their religion freely.”
Paprocki noted that while the Catholic Church shared the president’s concern for justice in matters of the economy, health care and immigration "it is also true that several of the president’s policy positions are at odds with Catholic teaching about the dignity and integrity of human life."
That includes Biden’s support for abortion, an issue Paprocki called a “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters, a reflection of a letter U.S. Catholic bishops released in 2019. Biden is Catholic.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Beth Hundsdorfer said the James R. Thompson Center and two other state buildings in Chicago were also closed Wednesday as a precaution.
Contact Steven Spearie: 622-1788, email@example.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
via The State Journal-Register
January 20, 2021 at 05:18PM