During a coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards addressed recent threats of violence made against the Louisiana state government.
“We’ve lost enough,” Edwards said. “The pandemic has taken away so much from us, we shouldn’t make that worse with continued division and violence.”
Edwards said the FBI has confirmed armed political protests are planned in the capitals of all 50 states as early as this weekend, with the potential for violence, chaos and destruction.
“Peaceful demonstrations are certainly a part of free speech,” Edwards said. “Violent demonstrations, lawless demonstrations, those aimed at upsetting our democracy and undermining our constitution — those are not.”
Edwards said he was saddened as a veteran and angered as an American by the insurgence at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. He said the state house in Baton Rouge will be protected as new threats arise.
Weapons are already banned inside the Louisiana State Capitol building. State Rep. Mandie Landry, who represents District 91 in Orleans Parish, said Louisiana State Police is working with the Baton Rouge Police Department to add extra layers of security.
“It was always a concern, but it never seemed to get to the level of worry before,” Landry said. “But now with what happened last week, at this point anything’s on the table and I think we need to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.”
Edwards said the FBI warned state leaders of armed events leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden Jan. 20. Going forward, Edwards said the political divide must also be addressed, starting with elected leaders being honest with the people they represent.
Rep. Royce Duplessis, who represents District 93 in Orleans Parish, said work to unite the nation is more important now than ever.
“Violence is never the answer,” Duplessis said. “It solves nothing. We have to figure out a way to work with one another again no matter how much we might disagree. Threats of violence or actually taking acts of violence will only bring us down a darker and deeper hole that’s going to be harder for us to recover from as a nation.”
The Louisiana State Police issued the following statement regarding planned future protests:
“Louisiana State Police is aware of the planned protests at the State Capitol and is working closely with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to coordinate security protocols. As with previous protest events across the state, the Louisiana State Analytical & Fusion Exchange continually monitors potential security concerns and will be providing pertinent information to our public safety personnel to ensure safety for protesters, Capitol grounds and staff, and the surrounding community.
“In coordination with Capitol staff and the Department of Public Safety Police, LSP will have personnel in place to ensure a safe environment and to protect the rights of our citizens to hold a peaceful gathering.
“We will not be able to provide specific information regarding protest security measures and cannot comment on the security protocols concerning the Governor’s Mansion and Louisiana State Capitol.”