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Security remains high at Capitol as California lawmakers return to work

Cassie Dickman
The Record

Security at the California state Capitol in Sacramento remained heightened Tuesday. A heavy law enforcement presence has been disbursed around the Capitol building grounds and throughout the city’s surrounding downtown area since last week in anticipation of protests and violence after the Jan. 6 siege in the U.S. Capitol. 

All remained fairly placid near the Capitol well into the afternoon, where dozens of California Highway Patrol officers and National Guard soldiers were stationed and patrolled the grounds behind a chain-link fence surrounding the building.

The California State Assembly holds a session at the California State Capitol in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday.

Lawmakers convened session Tuesday afternoon inside the state Senate and Assembly chambers. A limited number of media and public were also allowed to attend proceedings, provided they went through heavy security, wore a mask and passed a temperature screening.

Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, said security at the Capitol building has been tight since he started the job following his election win two months ago. He isn't sure if safety measures were different before he got there but says working behind a chain-link was definitely new to everyone.

"Never did we imagine we would go through this," Villapudua said, but added that the nation will get through this. "We always have, we always will."

National Guardsmen guard the north entrance to the California State Capitol in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday.

The extra security measures are in place just to prevent what happened in Washington D.C. from happening in Sacramento, Villapudua says, and he feels safe going to work everyday.

"I'm glad that were protecting our Capitol," Villapudua said, calling it the people's Capitol. "This belongs to the state of California, everyone that votes, that's involved — this is their home." 

An FBI warning of possible armed protests at the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings Sunday by supporters of President Donald Trump who believe the election was rigged have put the nation on edge. But as the weekend drew to a close the number of security personnel fanned out across the country outnumbered participants.

Patrick Bankert of Sacramento kneels and serenades California Highway Patrol officers and National Guardsmen guarding the north entrance to the California State Capitol in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday.

Sacramento was no different through the holiday weekend, with Tuesday seeing a quiet and uneventful afternoon.

Earlier in the day a man sang and played songs on his guitar for officers and soldiers stationed near the north entrance of the Capitol building. A little while later one Trump supporter yelled at police and soldiers guarding the State Library and Courts Building about how Democrats were ruining the country, thoueventually leaving the area without any serious confrontation with law enforcement.

A Trump supporter yells at California Highway Patrol officers and National Guardsmen guarding the State Library and Courts Building near the California State Capitol in downtown Sacramento on Tuesday.

But experts say the threat remained far from over.

"The National Guard and many political leaders have responded quite appropriately," said Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats. "This is the time to find out what the mass deployment of troops can and can't deal with."

The state Capitol remains on lockdown, along with parts of downtown Sacramento, as authorities brace for the possibility of violence and protests through Inauguration Day. National Guard troops remain on patrol as well.

USA TODAY contributed to this report.

Record reporter Cassie Dickman covers Stockton and San Joaquin County government. She can be reached at cdickman@recordnet.com or on Twitter at @byCassieDickman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.