WSP bolstering security at state Capitol after breach and ahead of more protests

VIDEO: WSP bolstering security at state Capitol after breach and ahead of more protests

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Protesters stormed and breached a gate outside the governor’s mansion at the Olympia state Capitol on Wednesday. Washington State Patrol admits it was ultimately caught unprepared — and said it has made immediate changes in security response.

There was a much larger presence of state troopers on the Capitol campus on Thursday. The gate itself to the property of the governor’s mansion is also being evaluated and will be improved “as necessary.”

“The response could’ve been better. We know we can improve, and we’re always looking for ways to improve,” said Sgt. Darren Wright, with the Washington State Patrol (WSP).

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He said protesters frequently march to the gates to protest, but there has never been a mass breach like what happened Wednesday.

Demonstrators had been peaceful all day. But once they reached the gates, someone with a megaphone started shouting, “We’re here to take the stand; enough is enough!”

The crowd chanted, “Open the gate! Open the gate!” Then protesters started shaking the gates. Suddenly, they breached the side gate door, and the crowd surged inside.

“Yeah! We’re in boys!” a man shouted.

Only one lone trooper was visible, who managed to pull a couple of people out of the gated property.

“I got thrown by a cop!” another man in the crowd shouted.

“Let’s go. They cannot arrest us all!” someone else shouted.

The crowd swarmed the governor’s mansion but stayed on the lawn.

“Our house! Our house!” the crowd chanted at one point.

This breach has people in Olympia wondering if WSP was inadequately prepared.

“After everything going on in D.C. all afternoon, I would’ve thought they would’ve been a little more prepared to expect something at the state Capitol in Washington state,” said Brenda Lehman, who is from the Olympia area.

“No, we were not prepared for that particular incident. We had resources staged outside the area, which took a little while to get here. We had not had this occurrence before,” Wright said.

Gov. Jay Inslee confirmed to reporters Thursday he was inside the mansion at the time and questioned the way the situation was handled.

“This was a criminal activity by the insurrectionists. The reason why there were no arrests at that moment may be because the forces did not believe they had enough troops to carry out arrests,” Inslee said. “But I don’t know that yet,” Inslee said.

Wright said Washington State Patrol chose to not make arrests at the moment to prevent further escalation.

“Making arrests in that situation could lead to violence and lead to altercations, and we don’t want anyone getting hurt,” Wright said.

Troopers communicated with people in the crowd several times. And ultimately, the crowd did leave peacefully.

“That, for us, is a very big win. No one was hurt. There was no excessive property damage,” Wright said. He said WSP is still investigating charges for those who broke the fence and trespassed onto the property of the mansion.

The chaos both at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C., has one protest organizer, Tyler Miller, canceling an event planned for next week in Olympia. He was expecting 500-1,000 people to show up.

“Considering the environment that it is, there was no way we could do this protest the way we want it and to achieve the goals that we want without it being hijacked and subverted by a few bad actors,” Miller said. “I’m very disappointed we’re not having the opportunity to do this protest,” he said.

Miller founded the group “Liberty, At All Hazards.”

He said the purpose of the now-canceled protest was to argue chamber doors should be open to the public when the Legislature is in session. It normally would be, but that policy was changed because of COVID-19 precautions. Now sessions are only broadcast on TV instead.

Miller said he’s been hearing of plans to cause trouble at the state Capitol from far-left groups and people who identify as patriots.

“They wanted to come and basically ramp things up. So getting it from both sides, the stated intent — in fact, they’re probably still going to show up,” Miller said.

“We’ve seen people who do just want to cause destruction and chaos,” Miller said. “I don’t want to feed and provide another form for that,” he said.

WSP said it is preparing for next week’s protests, and people will notice an increased law enforcement presence.

“We will be ready,” Wright said.