ASSOCIATED PRESS – Security was tightened around the New York state Capitol on Thursday and law enforcement officials around the state were focusing on potential threats, even as they continued to track down people involved in last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Congress.
The FBI warned several days ago that armed protests by violent Trump supporters were being planned in all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
On Thursday, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Albany, Thomas Relford, said the bureau was unaware of a specific threat on the state Capitol building. But at a news conference with acting U.S Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette Bacon, he said federal officials would retain a “heightened posture” through the inauguration Jan. 20, gathering intelligence and coordinating with other law enforcement agencies.
Concrete barricades have already been put in place to close off a portion of the street next to the Capitol. National Guard members were on site. Several officers, police vehicles and a police dog were stationed outside an entrance Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, federal agents were working to identify and arrest people who participated in last week’s riot’s in Washington.
Charged was a Cheektowaga man who was recorded trying to set fire to news media equipment and walking through the U.S. Capitol.
Peter J. Harding, 47, appeared for a remote hearing Thursday in federal court, where his lawyer said his actions were “peaceful in nature.” He also faces misdemeanor charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kruly said Harding knowingly tried to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote that finalized Biden’s victory. In follow-up social media posts, Harding “expressed a desire to engage in similar conduct in the future,” Kruly said.
“If we can take the Capitol building there is nothing we can’t accomplish,” the prosecutor quoted Harding as saying in a video.
Harding’s lawyer, Jason DiPasquale, said he believes the evidence “will bear out that his intention of being there was to protest peacefully and that his actions were peaceful in nature and not violent while in there.”
Harding also was recorded outside the Capitol holding a lighter flame to gear belonging to The Associated Press and other outlets.
Also charged was Syracuse resident Albert Ciarpelli, who acknowledged entering the U.S. Capitol with the mob and taking pictures as part of what he told federal agents was a “little adventure,” was arrested Wednesday. Ciarpelli, 65, was released after pleading not guilty to charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building and engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds.
According to a court filing, Ciarpelli told agents he entered the Capitol through a partially opened door and spent about 15 minutes walking through the building. Thinking back to that day, Ciarpelli told agents “that he was out of his mind and had never done anything like that before,” according to court documents.
John Miller, the New York City police department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said that the Joint-Terrorism Task Force is working to identify and arrest people who participated in the riots and live in the New York City area.
“This is a process that’s going to go on for some time, and I think there’s a great deal of determination here that however long it takes, however many leads, there are that they’re all going to be followed up,” Miller said.
Miller wouldn’t specify how many people in the region are being sought, saying the number “literally shifts everyday. So far it’s been shifting upwards.”