As somebody said the other day, 2021 has already been one helluva year.
The FBI is warning that armed protesters will march in all 50 state capitals starting this weekend, and there is some word that those protesters plan to keep protesting until the inauguration ceremonies of President-elect Joe Biden next Wednesday.
A peaceful protest can't be, and shouldn't be, stopped, as long as the proper permits are in hand. (Although we imagine the Secret Service would consider armed protesters near the inauguration platform poor form, and would forcefully make that clear.)
The acting secretary of Homeland Security abruptly resigned the other day, like a couple of other Cabinet members, but not before he said the "evolving security landscape" had led to his decision to start security for the inauguration today, a week out, instead of Jan. 19, the day before. There hasn't been an abundance of smart moves in Washington, D.C., lately, but that is one of them.
The FBI says the protests are being planned on social media. The National Guard has received the operations orders to deploy up to 15,000 soldiers into Washington before and during the inauguration events. The Secret Service says it's prepping for tensions, and has been coordinating with local and state law enforcement.
All the while the president's enemies, and not a few of his former friends, are thinking of ways to ease him, or push him, out the White House door. Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing a second impeachment in the last week of this president's tenure. There has been radio silence from the White House now that the president's social media outlets have been shut down.
A report from the FBI says some of the protesters "indicated willingness to commit violence in support of their ideology, created contingency plans in the event violence occurred at the events, and identified law enforcement security measures and possible countermeasures."
ABC News reports on an internal bulletin that the FBI has issued in which one armed group is calling for "storming" state, local and federal buildings if the president is removed before Jan. 20.
Another report says some groups have gone as far as to "scout" law enforcement at rallies and has "identified law enforcement sniper locations and considered breaking into federal buildings for use as firing locations, if fighting occurred."
This is the definition of a tinderbox.
Law enforcement can't disarm a mob before it gathers. The 101st Airborne can't prevent violence from happening days before it happens. We doubt these protesters will listen to congressional leaders--of either party. They certainly won't listen to common sense.
There is one person who could do more than anyone to calm the situation. He's not been known for that before. But if the president of the United States issues a video message telling folks to stay home and let the peaceful transfer of power proceed, or--if they must protest--to leave the AR-15s and other firearms at home to prevent a mistake by either protesters or law enforcement, that would go a long way toward de-escalating tensions. It could even save lives.
And maybe the tech giants might even realize it would be in the national interest to let the rest of America see that statement.
There is another person who could de-escalate the situation: Nancy Pelosi. If the speaker of the House of Representatives would drop her impeachment effort, it might calm not only Donald Trump but many of his zealous followers.
The security landscape is evolving, all right, perhaps devolving. Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi could do the right thing this week. If they only would.