OLYMPIA — Several dozen protesters gathered Sunday afternoon outside Washington state’s Capitol building, which is surrounded by temporary fencing and National Guard members.
Protesters — some opposing vaccines, some in support of President Donald Trump and others objecting to the closure of the building to the public during the upcoming legislative session — held signs and listened to speakers.
An armed, right-wing group had encouraged its members to occupy the Capitol when the Legislature meets. However, an organizer of the planned occupation, Tyler Miller of the group Hazardous Liberty, canceled the event in a Facebook post Wednesday night.
“Due to our political leaders being non-responsive and the 100% likelihood that our event will be hijacked by people with ulterior motives, we have decided to cancel the Legislative Lockout event,” Miller wrote. “Please support the other rallies that are happening in and around Olympia this weekend and coming week.”
Organizers and leaders have acknowledged that people will likely still show and try to get into the building as momentum for the event exists following Wednesday when a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in a stunning attempt to overturn America’s presidential election.
Sunday’s event was small and peaceful, with many people leaving the area by 3 p.m., in comparison to another protest that took place Wednesday where Trump loyalists — some who were armed — stormed the governor’s property in Olympia.
Earlier this week Gov. Jay Inslee activated the Washington State National Guard, authorizing 750 members of the Guard along with state police to be in Olympia ahead of the 2021 legislative session that begins Monday.
Lawmakers plan to do their work through a mix of virtual meetings and on-site votes.
Leaders from both parties say the state constitution requires lawmakers to meet in person, however the public and lobbyists will have to watch the events virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legislative proceedings will stream live online and on the state’s public affairs television network. Lawmakers are meeting in person Monday largely to adopt rules that will allow them to meet virtually during the rest of the session.