OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Legislature is set to convene for the first time in person in nearly a year amid concerns of potential efforts by armed groups to occupy the Capitol, which is currently closed to the public due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers are meeting in person Monday largely to adopt rules that will allow them to meet virtually during the rest of the session.
After that, in the Senate, regular floor votes will be conducted in a hybrid format, with a mix of senators present in the chamber and others participating remotely.
The House has decided to do the rest of its work remotely. Lawmakers' agenda includes dealing with pressing issues related to the pandemic, such as support for struggling businesses and renters, and police reform.
On Sunday, the National Guard stood guard outside of a fenced off Capitol building in response to reported threats to take over the building.
Demonstrations are planned for Sunday and Monday to protest the Legislative Session being off-limits to in-person observation due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The legislature plans to meet in-person on Monday to change the rules and go fully remote for the rest of the 105-day session due to coronavirus concerns.
Right-wing groups said that cuts the public out of the process and planned to show up to defend the state constitution. However, the leaders of Hazardous Liberty and The Three Percent of Washington then canceled their scheduled demonstrations.
“Especially with the events on Wednesday it cemented in my mind the idea that there are people out there who have no intention of remaining peaceful,” said Tyler Miller with Hazardous Liberty.
Washington State Patrol says they have heard from 5 or 6 groups, including right-wing and leftist groups, who plan on gathering outside of the Capitol building Monday.
On Friday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee activated the Washington State National Guard to be in Olympia when state legislators return to the Capitol Campus for the 2021 legislative session.
"It is also a response to some of the intelligence that we have been knowledgeable of that suggested that there were people in state of Washington who were intent on disrupting the legislature, essentially preventing them from functioning in the state Capitol, and that’s just not acceptable in a democracy,” Inslee said in an interview outside the Capitol building Sunday.