At four US state capitols, only the smallest of anti-Biden protests

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – State capitols nationwide had braced themselves for chaos, installing fences and bolstering security before President Joe Biden’s inauguration at the US Capitol on Wednesday (Jan 20), two weeks after the building was breached by pro-Trump rioters.

Instead, there was calm.

Those who gathered Wednesday did so by the handful, falsely claiming that the election was stolen.

A lone protester in front of the state Capitol in Concord, New Hampshire, held a Trump-Pence campaign sign with “Pence” scratched out in black marker.

The man, who declined to give his name because he feared retribution and “a subversive communist police state”, said he had crossed off the former vice-president’s name because he had presided over the joint session of Congress that certified Mr Biden’s election.

He added that he had taken the day off to be there and was surprised that not a single other demonstrator had shown up. He left the plaza before Mr Biden was sworn in at noon.

“I’m going skiing,” the man said.

Shortly after he left, Mr Paul and Ms Donna Merrill stationed themselves on the sidewalk in front of the plaza with an American flag and three homemade signs, including ones reading “We love you President Trump” and “Jesus is refuge”.

“We’re losing our freedoms as we speak,” Mr Paul Merrill said, adding, “People are losing hope.”

In Lansing, Michigan, four people stood vigil outside the state Capitol as Mr Biden gave his inaugural address.

“There are a lot of questions left unanswered, and I wish there was more transparency,” said Mr Don Atkinson, 50, who owns a carpentry business in Clinton Township.

Mr Atkinson, who said he was an Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq War, was dressed in military fatigues, carried a semi-automatic rifle and wore a Roman numeral III patch of the Three Percenters, an anti-government group.

“I hope both sides could agree on a winner and a loser and so we won’t be so divided,” he said. “Hopefully we can get through this.”

In Tallahassee, Florida, a few peaceful protesters arrived at the state Capitol in support of former president Donald Trump. One held up a sign that read “Stop Election Fraud”. Another wore a Make America Great Again hat and a Mr Trump mask, and carried a sign saying “Thank you President Trump! The World Needed You!” Another sign read “Trump Won!”

The gathering at the state Capitol in Atlanta was also small and pointed. “We’re here to stand up for our rights,” said Ms Rhonda Beach, one of the protesters. “The election was stolen. It’s not fair.”

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Ms Beach, 50, and her husband, Anthony, drove an hour from Monticello, Georgia, to rally with their niece. They carried signs that said “We love our country” on one side and “We hate our government” on the other.

Although their niece, Ms Elizabeth Webb, 42, said, “I love Trump, and I’m behind him,” she acknowledged that he had contributed to ideological division in the country.

She added that she thought Mr Biden and the Democrats were to blame for the Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol. “We don’t tear stuff up,” she said of Republicans. “That’s not how we act.”

One of the few other demonstrators, a 46-year-old construction worker who identified himself only as Patrick, showed up armed with both a bow and arrow and a sword.

“It’s just a show of force, like they’re doing,” he said, pointing to the police and National Guard troops ringing the building. “I ain’t come here to start no trouble.”

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