New Mexico declares security emergency ahead of inauguration

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor declared a state of emergency Thursday in response to credible intelligence about threats of violence at statehouse buildings across the country and deployed members of the New Mexico National Guard to Washington for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

The declaration by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham came as fencing was installed in a wide radius around the state Capitol building in Santa Fe and an adjacent annex. The Legislature is set to convene Tuesday, the day before Biden's inauguration, and leading legislators say they are taking the prospect of violence seriously amid an FBI warning and other undisclosed information.

Lujan Grisham during an online briefing Thursday said she had no specifics but that she's taking seriously the warning from federal authorities about the potential for unrest.

“The safety of every single New Mexican during this next week and beyond is first and foremost on my mind, and I believe to date that we have taken effective precautions,” she said, adding that anyone who participates in any violence or acts of what she called domestic terrorism “will be held swiftly and firmly accountable and we will use the full extent of the law to do just that.”

The declaration authorizes the deployment of the state's National Guard and makes financial resources available to state and local agencies that respond to possible emergencies.

Normally buzzing with lobbyists and members of the public, the Legislature's circular Roundhouse has been closed since the start of the pandemic to stem the spread of the virus. Even though most legislative business has been moved to public video conferences, law enforcement has been making plans to bolster security at the Capitol.

State police who oversee the site are coordinating security with local law enforcement agencies to provide a response should any gatherings become violent.

State Police Lt. Mark Soriano said security plans anticipate potential large-scale demonstrations in the coming days.

“Given the current climate in our country, we will not rule out such events taking place during the upcoming legislative session, or on Inauguration Day, or in the days and weeks surrounding either event, for that matter,” he said.

State officials have declined to describe in greater detail intelligence about security at the Statehouse and when they believe protests might take place.

In Washington, New Mexico's National Guard will be joining thousands of troops from other states to provide security, communications, medical evacuation and other support.

Couy Griffin, founder of the Cowboys for Trump support group in New Mexico, said he will travel to Washington with a rifle in the trunk of his vehicle and handgun under the seat to take a stand in support of gun rights and against the election of Biden. Griffin says the election was fraudulent and “stolen by communist China.”

An ardent Trump supporter and Otero County commissioner, Griffin used a public commission meeting in southern New Mexico to announce his plans to be in Washington on Inauguration Day.

Griffin was in the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He says he tried to lead a prayer session and did not go inside as a mob stormed the building.

“When January 20th comes ... after that, we’re going to know if we’re going to be a nation that looks like communist China or if we’re going to continue going with the freedom in the heart and the courage and the bravery that has always made America great,” Griffin said Thursday while flouting the state’s face mask requirement at a public meeting.


AP writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque contributed to this report.