NORRISTOWN — Montgomery County officials say they’re not aware of any threats of civil unrest locally in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week and “chatter” about demonstrations at state and local government offices in the coming days.
“We aren’t aware of anything specific facing the county courthouse or any other county facilities, but our sheriff’s office, our department of public safety, the detectives, county security, we are all meeting internally and have been in touch with all of our external partners here in the county and regionally to share information,” county Chief Operating Officer Lee Soltysiak said on Wednesday.
“We’re also receiving information from other intelligence agencies just to keep us all abreast of all the chatter. So, we are staying aware of it and we’ll continue to update county employees as they need to be, but (there’s) nothing specific or concerning as it relates to county facilities at the moment,” Soltysiak added.
Earlier this week, the FBI, according to the Associated Press, issued an internal bulletin warning law enforcement of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
County Sheriff Sean P. Kilkenny said that during a staff meeting this week officials discussed the FBI bulletin that went out to all law enforcement agencies.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and coordinating with the county detectives and other agencies and we will be prepared. We will have additional staffing in place, not that we have any specific information that anything will happen here, hence the focus on state capitals and Washington, D.C., but we will be ready in case there is,” Kilkenny said.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Norristown courthouse was closed. But the courthouse later reopened with limited operations and with restrictions in place for visitors and employees. Jury trials ceased at the courthouse last March and have not yet resumed.
County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh had some advice for county residents who may be thinking about heading to Washington for inauguration festivities.
“I don’t have any knowledge beyond what I’ve read in the newspapers about the security measures that are being put in place for the inauguration next week but they certainly appear to be very, very robust,” Arkoosh said. “So, all the normal cautionary notes, if you see something, say something.”
Aside from security measures, Arkoosh reminded residents that the nation is still battling a pandemic and that citizens should continue to follow all mitigation measures.
“If you are planning on going to Washington, I just want to remind everyone that there’s COVID-19 in Washington too and so wearing that mask, washing your hands and watching your distance are just as important in Washington,” Arkoosh said.