There is “no specific or credible threat” to New Jersey’s state Capitol ahead of planned armed marches at state capitols nationwide on Sunday, according to Jared Maples, director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
“We’re preparing for all manner of violence, we’re doing everything in our power to make sure if somebody were to protest that it remains peaceful,” Maples said in an interview with NJ Spotlight News. “We are on guard.”
Several extremist groups from New Jersey were present at the U.S. Capitol riot last Wednesday, Maples said. And ahead of armed marches being called for Sunday at state capitols including Trenton, comments on some online forums in New Jersey have grown violent. One commenter urged people to “drag” people out of the State House and “hang them.”
“We’re always concerned with extremism in any form and those groups conducting violence,” Maples said, “but right now there’s no specific or credible threat to our Capitol, but we are watching and we are concerned.”
Gov. Phil Murphy has urged residents to stay home this weekend. “If you want to go out and express yourself peacefully, we respect that completely,” he said at his regular media briefing on Wednesday. “If you want to protest and use violent means, we will have no patience and we will have no reservations about using the fullest extent of the law against you. And please don’t test us.”
New Jersey law enforcement has recognized “domestic extremists” as a major threat for many years. The Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness put out an additional threat assessment in September, citing potential dangers stemming from misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and election results.
“Those have all converged into this threat,” Maples said. “There’s a lot more openness about some of that hate.”
Maples said that members of the public can help the state’s efforts to repulse any threats by reporting suspicious activity or any planned violence they know about to the state’s hotline at 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or email@example.com.
Maples, who said he witnessed countries being overthrown and overrun when working abroad for the federal government, said seeing the attack on the U.S. Capitol was jarring and surreal.
“I never thought four years ago when I accepted my initial appointment that I’d have to deliver a message to the governor that the Capitol building had been overrun,” he said. “But there I was last week, delivering that message.”