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Protesters swarm Statehouses across US; some evacuated

While chaos reigned in the US Capitol, police evacuated state lawmakers in Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Utah

kansas statehouse trump protest

Supporters of President Donald Trump gather inside the Kansas Statehouse, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Topeka, Kan., after rain moved the rally inside.

Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

By Catarina Saraiva and Laura Bliss
Bloomberg News

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Violent and chaotic protests at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday led several states to close their own legislative buildings, though protests outside Washington remained mostly peaceful.

Hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump broke through the gates of the Washington governor’s mansion complex in Olympia late Wednesday, flooding the lawn, according to KIRO Radio. They shouted for Governor Jay Inslee, a Democract, to come out. The governor was in a safe place, a spokesman said.

Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Georgia all closed or partially shuttered their statehouses in case protests turned violent. A mob of Trump supporters stormed Congress earlier Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to halt the official count of Electoral College votes.

The Texas Department of Public Safety closed the statehouse in Austin “out of an abundance of caution,” it said in an emailed statement. A few hundred people had protested in front of the pink granite building before the shutdown, according to local press reports.

New Mexico evacuated its legislative building in Santa Fe, though no protesters had broken into it, said Pamela Armstrong, a spokesperson with the office of the speaker of the House.

In Atlanta, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and his senior staff were escorted from the capitol after militia members gathered outside one day after voters handed Democrats control of the U.S. Senate with victories in two runoff races.

Raffensperger, the state official responsible for running elections, has come under fire from Trump following the president’s loss in Georgia in the Nov. 3 general election.

Protesters in Kansas entered the Capitol in Topeka and spread out around the rotunda, according to State Librarian Eric Norris, who was in the third-floor library at the time. The building was mostly empty, though, as lawmakers aren’t in session until Jan. 11.

“It was tame. There was no violence,” Norris said, adding that most demonstrators had left.

Public-safety officials advised Utah lawmakers to leave the statehouse in Salt Lake City early. Nick Street, a state public safety spokesman, said his department identified “bad actors among the protest groups” and is investigating an incident in which a protester sprayed a photojournalist’s eyes with an unidentified substance. No arrests had been made.

In Sacramento, California, Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled a COVID-19 media briefing as protesters filled downtown streets and the grounds outside the capitol. The Sacramento Police Department said it has made “some arrests” of individuals carrying pepper spray.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock instructed city agencies to close municipal buildings early after about 700 people gathered at the state capitol there.

In downtown Los Angeles, four people were arrested where pro-Trump protesters clashed with anti-Trump ones, according to Officer J. Chavez with the LAPD media relations section. The police declared an unlawful assembly shortly after 1 p.m., Chavez said.

The protesters had mostly cleared out by late afternoon and looked to be “done for the day,” Chavez said.

(Bloomberg’s Kim Chipman, Vincent Del Giudice, Brett Pulley and Edvard Pettersson contributed to this story.)