US Capitol Police have been tracking social media posts about attacking the Capitol as the agency and other law enforcement around Washington increase security for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
Among the security measures taken ahead of the address, authorities erected a non-scalable fence around the Capitol over the weekend — over the objection of the Republican House sergeant at arms — as security remains a political debate on Capitol Hill.
Intelligence analysts still believe the US remains in a heightened threat environment with possible violence directed toward lawmakers and law enforcement, according to a Capitol Police Intelligence and Interagency Coordination Division bulletin circulated in recent days.
“Within the last month, elected officials, government buildings, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States were targeted by violent actors,” the bulletin said.
The bulletin also noted that calls on social media for violence targeted toward the Capitol remains prevalent. “January 6 supporters perpetuate antagonistic commentary in social media platforms and several have called for aspirational targeting of the SOTU,” the bulletin said.
Among the examples of concerning social media posts included a post comparing the Jan. 8, 2023, insurrection in Brazil to the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, and criticizing the Jan. 6 rioters for failing to “finish it.”
“This was the problem with J6. You can’t do it halfway,” the user posted.
Other posts speculated about the return of former President Donald Trump and called for the execution of officials in President Joe Biden’s administration as well as Biden’s arrest by the House Sergeant at Arms.
The bulletin also noted that increased scrutiny of police in the wake of incidents, such as the death of Tyre Nichols, could make the State of the Union a focal point for demonstrations.
The bulletin did point out there were no specific credible threats related to the event.
The fence was erected after House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland voted last week against it, according to a source familiar with the Capitol Police Board vote. The other two members of the Capitol Police Board, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson and Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, voted for putting up the fence.
McFarland, recently appointed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, didn’t think the fence was necessary given a lack of intelligence suggesting a credible threat or large protests planned, the source said. Previous State of the Union addresses have been secured without a fence, the source added, and the cost “to make the campus look like a military fortress was unnecessary.”
Two years removed from the Jan. 6 riot, the Capitol Police Board is now split, with the Democratic appointed Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Republican House Sergeant at Arms. Blanton was appointed by former President Trump in 2019.
The political split will push different opinions about security onto the Capitol Police Board agenda, and the State of the Union presented the first test of the functioning of the new board.