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Massachusetts State House fortified, police gather as precaution ahead of presidential inauguration

In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that there have been no known or credible threats in the state.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
As a precaution in case of any violence leading up to the inauguration, workers for Boston Police erected metal barriers around the State House.

Workers erected heavy metal fortifications around the State House Sunday and hundreds of police officers mobilized around the building amid nationwide concerns of potential confrontations with right-wing extremist groups ahead of Wednesday’s presidential inauguration.

The moves follow the deadly Jan. 6 attempted insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of President Trump and warnings from the FBI of the potential for armed protests at the Capitol and in all 50 state capitals, including some protests slated for Sunday.

In Boston, crowds of officers — many wearing Boston police yellow vests and face masks, and carrying clubs — arrived on Beacon Street on buses around noon and walked up to the State House. Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, said Sunday, following the arrival of the officers, that officials had no credible information about specific threats, and are continuing to monitor the situation.

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Boyle declined to release information about police precautions, citing public safety concerns.

More than one-third of state governors have called out National Guard members to protect capitol buildings, creating unsettling images of the nation’s houses of democracy looking like fortified encampments in the days before President-elect Joe Biden becomes the nation’s 46th president.

In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that there have been no known or credible threats in the state.

Baker has called up about 1,000 members of the state’s National Guard, mobilizing half of them to help provide security in Washington D.C. for Biden’s inauguration. The Massachusetts guard members’ primary mission will be to protect the House of Representatives.

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The remaining 500 state Guard members will be assisting local law enforcement in Massachusetts in the coming days if needed, officials have said.

On Sunday, as workers in Boston erected barricades outside the State House, part of Beacon Street near the building was cordoned off by metal fences turning it into a one-way street.

The workers, wearing yellow Boston police vests, continued to reinforce fences already in place on Beacon Street and by 9 a.m. four rows of barricades blocked the State House. Some ground-level windows on the State House had been covered by plexiglass.

All of the surrounding streets of the State House, in front of the Boston Common and in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, were blocked by barricades and No Parking signs were posted. Some streets were double barricaded, closing in neighborhood runners and dog walkers who circled the area looking for an exit.

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Patrick and Kasey Cunningham, who traveled from Florida to Boston over the weekend, were planning to walk around the State House and the Boston Common Sunday with their two daughters. Instead, they were met with metal fences as they approached the corner of Bowdoin and Beacon streets.

“It was a bit off putting,” Kasey Cunningham said. “But I would prefer to feel safe.”

At noon, Bob Hartwell, 67, of Dorchester, stood alone on Boston Common wearing a mask and carrying a sign that read “Make America Great Again.”

He said he doesn’t expect to be joined by anyone else and thinks the heavy police presence is “over exaggerated.” He came to the State House Sunday, he said, because he thinks the 2020 election was “stolen.”

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“They want to squash his movement,” Hartwell said. “The movement is bigger than Donald Trump. If he was so unpopular, he wouldn’t have gotten so many votes.”

Officials from across the country, including Republican election officials, have repeatedly said the 2020 vote was a free and fair election.

Jessica Rinaldi, Laura Crimaldi, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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