This story was published on Tuesday, Jan. 12

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With one week left before the inauguration, the Minnesota National Guard is on standby, preparing for protests or violence at the State Capitol in the coming days.

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The FBI has Minnesota on its radar because of the presence of an extremist group here.

Last year, The United States Attorney’s Office charged three men connected to the Boogaloo Bois for crimes committed in Minnesota following the death of George Floyd. That’s when protesters flooded Twin Cities streets last summer, at times turning destructive.

Experts said the rioting served as an ideal backdrop for members of the Boogaloo Bois. Lisa Waldner is an associate dean and professor at the University of St. Thomas, who studies U.S. extremist and militia groups.

“I don’t think they’re involvement last summer had anything to really do with justice for George Floyd,” Waldner said. “I think they’re attracted to chaos and an opportunity to bring weapons, to show arms, and an opportunity to create chaos.”

She says the Boogaloo Bois’s mission is to incite a second civil war, and that the current climate across the country is a new opportunity, specifically the potential armed protests the FBI is warning could happen at all 50 state capitols.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s an anti-government and anti-establishment protest, which is something that would also resonate with them,” Waldner said. “Given their propensity to show up armed with weapons, you know, anytime, you know, folks like that mobilize it should be of concern to law enforcement.”

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The deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol is pushing Minnesota leaders to be prepared for similar attacks at the State Capitol. The Minnesota State Patrol has already increased its presence inside and outside the building. Now, Gov. Tim Walz plans to activate the Minnesota National Guard.

“I think what you can expect to see is an appropriate presence of folks there to ensure that there’s peaceful gatherings, to make sure that the intent to do damage to any of the buildings will not happen,” Walz said.

What we can’t see are investigators searching for clues online on who might incite violence, where it could happen, and when.

“Some of those [people] are a little more difficult to find because they move to kind of corners of the internet, but there’s folks that are trained to make sure that they’re looking for that,” Walz said.

That preparedness level and the attention it’s getting could discourage people from participating in protests, said Waldner.

Right now, 500 National Guard troops are actively working in Minnesota. They’re helping with COVID-19 testing and staffing shortages at long-term care facilities. It’s unclear how many troops will be activated to protect the State Capitol.

The motto “See something, say something” applies to the current threats, which could be seen as terroristic. The Department of Homeland Security says to contact law enforcement if you see suspicious surveillance, such as people watching or taking pictures of entrances. Impersonation, such as someone dressing as law enforcement, is another concern. Click here to learn more signs to watch out for.

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Jeff Wagner