DeSantis vows Florida will be ready if protests engulf state Capitol

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a top ally of President Donald Trump, vowed Tuesday that state authorities would be ready in case of any unrest ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

DeSantis, who has refrained from criticizing Trump over last week’s riots at the U.S. Capitol, acknowledged FBI warnings about possible protests and violence at state capitals leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, but said he did not know about anything “specific” targeting at Tallahassee.

“If anything is disorderly, we are going to act very quickly,” DeSantis said at an unrelated press conference at The Villages. “I don’t care why you are doing it. You are not doing it here. If there’s any type of disorder we will have the reinforcements there.”

State Senate President Wilton Simpson, meanwhile, sent a memo to lawmakers directing all Senate staff to work remotely on Sunday. While he said there had been “no threats” to the Florida Capitol, he cautioned it was “very likely” that there would be protesters outside the complex on Sunday, when “armed” marches are planned in all 50 states and Washington.

How we got here: The cautious moves by the Republican governor and legislative leader come less than a week after Trump supporters stormed the halls of Congress, threatened lawmakers, beat a police officer to death and vandalized historic furnishings. Federal authorities have started arresting people who took part in the riots, including several individuals from Florida. Trump has been blamed for provoking the crowd ahead of the riots — and he has also been faulted for failing to quickly respond to the unrest.

DeSantis has criticized last week’s violence. But when he was asked by a reporter on Tuesday whether Trump should be held accountable for what happened, the governor did not respond. He did say earlier that “he was glad to see some of these people getting arrested,” and said he thought the prosecutions would act as a deterrence.

Key context: The FBI on Monday alerted authorities across the country about the prospect of additional violent protests that could happen in state capitals. In a statement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it was “aware of the information” and they would “continue to monitor the national situation and analyze information relevant to public safety.” Florida’s Capitol has remained largely closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, although legislators are holding committee meetings this week.

DeSantis last year called up the Florida National Guard during the protests that occurred in several cities throughout the state following the killing of George Floyd, but those units were not deployed.

What’s next: President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20. There are no Florida legislative meetings scheduled for next week.


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