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Inslee to assess need for extra security at state Capitol after inauguration

Up to 750 Washington National Guard members have been a visible presence at the Washington State Capitol for about two weeks.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee will assess the need for continued extra security on the state Capitol grounds after Wednesday’s presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, Inslee activated up to 750 members of the Washington National Guard to assist with Capitol campus security following breaches in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

In D.C. on Jan. 6, a violent demonstration where five people died, including one police officer, disrupted a joint session of Congress to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

That same day, demonstrators in Olympia broke through the gate at the governor's residence located on the Capitol campus. They left after less than an hour, only damaging the gate. No one was injured.

Officials in all 50 states received federal warnings of possible armed demonstrations at state capitols. The National Guard's activation in Washington state also overlapped with the start of the state's 2021 Legislative Session.

The Washington National Guard's activation at the state Capitol is set to expire Sunday, Jan. 24, but a spokesperson said the governor will determine if they’re needed that long, or longer, after speaking with guard and state patrol officials.

A relatively small number of people have been arrested since the start of the legislative session. And most public meetings during the legislative session will be conducted remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What has the beefed-up security cost taxpayers?

Washington State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis said the exact figure is not known yet.

“It’s a lot. It’s going to be more than people are comfortable with,” Loftis said.

Inslee said he felt the presence of the guard was the “right response.”

Loftis said it has been worthwhile.

"Preparedness isn't cheap, safety isn't cheap,” Loftis said. "But neither are the lives that we protect in this effort."

House Minority Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox said he hopes the federal government will be able to pay for some of the increased security measures.

"I don't regret that the state patrol and people involved in security reacted strongly to some very worrisome threats,” said Wilcox, R-Yelm. “But we don't want that to last forever."