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Pennsylvania Capitol Closing; More Security Being Added

Jacqueline Larma
A Capitol police officer, center, talks to a Capitol police investigator as she exercises near the East Wing entrance of the Pennsylvania Capitol building Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021 in Harrisburg, Pa.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the Pennsylvania Capitol closed for two days next week around the swearing-in of three statewide officials and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The complex is already closed to the general public because of the coronavirus pandemic, and most Capitol employees under Wolf’s jurisdiction currently work remotely. But the new order advises employees who report to work in person to take off Tuesday and Wednesday.

“While we are not aware of any specific threats at this time, we want to act with an abundance of caution to keep employees safe,” Wolf's Office of Administration said on its website.

Next Tuesday will be the swearing-in of three statewide elected officials: Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Auditor General-elect Tim DeFoor and Treasurer-elect Stacy Garrity. Biden is being inaugurated Wednesday in Washington.

Meanwhile, the state Senate said its offices will close for five days, Saturday through Wednesday.

“After consulting with law enforcement, it was recommended that Senate offices implement a work-from-home policy for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week,” Senate Republican spokesperson Jennifer Kocher said.

The agency that protects the Pennsylvania Capitol is bolstering security measures, adding police officers inside and out and erecting barriers in recent days, in light of last week's violent siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Police continue to monitor the potential for violence or unrest in Harrisburg, said Troy Thompson, a spokesperson for the Department of General Services.

State capitols around the United States have heightened security after the attack in Washington. The FBI has warned there are calls for armed protests at state capitals and in Washington on Sunday and ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

Waist-high orange plastic barriers were in place at several spots around the Capitol on Thursday morning, keeping pedestrians away from walkways and side doors. Two heavily armed officers were stationed outside, and another was patrolling hallways in the largely vacant Main Capitol.

Shapiro said his agents and prosecutors were working with federal authorities on the investigation into the U.S. Capitol riot.

“We know the difference between protests and violence," Shapiro said Thursday. "Anyone who attempts to be violent, break or destroy state property, or bring harm or destruction to the Harrisburg community — or any community across Pennsylvania — will be held accountable.”

In Philadelphia, officials added security personnel to protect historical and city-owned buildings, and the district attorney warned anyone who plans to target the Capitol would expose themselves to state charges, beyond the reach of any presidential pardon.

“We ain’t having Nazis in Philly. Its not happening. I don’t care what flavor of Nazi you think you are,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

The state police and Capitol Police plan to discuss preparations during an online news conference later Thursday.