COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Department of Public Safety, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), City of Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff’s Department are working in collaboration to ensure the safety and security of the South Carolina State House complex as well as other facilities following a warning issued by the FBI about the potential for armed protests at the U.S. Capitol and State Capitols around the nation leading up to the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
The agencies have come together to plan and prepare for the deployment of resources and have begun steadily increasing vigilance and manpower since last week at the State House and the surrounding area. Out of an abundance of caution, the State House will be closed to all visitors from January 16th – January 20th.
SC Department of Public Safety Director Robert G. Woods, IV:
“Our goal -- first and foremost -- is to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our State Capitol Complex and the surrounding area where our state’s citizens should be free to visit, participate in peaceful protests and our elected officials and personnel should feel safe to conduct business,” Woods said. “The events of the last week around the nation, as well as the threats against State Capitols, have necessitated a more heightened security posture in the coming days and for as long as we need to maintain that elevated presence. We are advising the public to expect more visible security measures both inside the State House and around the perimeter of the grounds.”
Beginning this weekend and stretching through Inauguration, the public should expect to see more law enforcement vehicles; a perimeter around the State House that will include physical barriers as well as more law enforcement presence – both inside and outside the State House. Additional law enforcement from the SC Department of Public Safety, augmented by local and state agencies, will be posted in the lobbies of each building on the State House Complex. Additionally, there will be signage on the grounds that will remind the public that no weapons are allowed on the State House grounds. South Carolina Section 10-11-320: “It is unlawful for any person or group of persons to: carry or have readily accessible to the person upon the Capitol grounds or within the Capitol building any firearm or dangerous weapon…”
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel:
“SLED stands alongside our partners at the SC Department of Public Safety as well as our local, state and federal law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our State House Complex,” Keel said. “We will work together to protect South Carolinians’ right to peaceably assemble and exercise their Constitutional rights while maintaining public safety. We want to make it clear that the rights of freedom of speech and assembly afforded to us by the Constitution does not give anyone the right to resort to violence and lawlessness. We want to reassure the people in the greater Columbia area and throughout South Carolina that law enforcement at all levels are working together and ready to ensure the physical safety of our State House and surrounding facilities.”
City of Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook:
“The Columbia Police Department (CPD) is working with state and federal partners to monitor and engage in intelligence gathering related to events leading up to and including Inauguration Day 2021,” Holbrook said. “We will have a multi-agency security plan in place for all planned or spontaneous events. City of Columbia citizens can expect to see high visible police presence on and around the South Carolina State House, or other identified protest locations as events are announced or detected. Other law enforcement partner assets, such as mobile field force, hazardous device units, aviation, and tactical teams will all be available for our consideration.”
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott:
“We are ready to work in partnership with the SC Department of Public Safety as well as our federal partners to ensure all citizens are protected and safe to exercise their right to peaceful protest,” Lott said. “However, we are also ready and prepared to maintain law and order and will not tolerate any violence or destruction. The increase in law enforcement presence will serve to both keep citizens safe and protect property.”
Media: SCDPS will release any relevant or developing information throughout this period via the Department’s Twitter account @SCDPS_PIO. Follow us for important updates.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, Immigration Enforcement Unit and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Our mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.www.scdps.sc.gov