JoCo officials say they’re not worried about any potential Inauguration Day threats, protests

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and Sheriff Calvin Hayden (in background) both say they are not worried about violence here leading up to Inauguration Day. File photo.

Although the FBI has warned of armed protests and plans to “storm” government buildings across the nation on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20., Johnson County’s top law enforcement officials say they haven’t heard any intelligence that should cause residents to be alarmed or fearful to go out on that day.

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden and District Attorney Steve Howe both told the Post they are keeping their eyes open, but so far have not heard any credible intelligence of threats to public safety here.

No ‘immediate threat’ known

Tensions, as well as political fallout, have continued nationwide this week in the aftermath of a coordinated attack by followers of President Donald Trump on the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers certified the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported in an internal FBI document warned that armed protests are planned in all 50 state capitol buildings. Other major news outlets reported the FBI also said an unnamed group had called for the storming of state, local and federal buildings as well.

But both Hayden and Howe offered reassurance that Johnson County is safe.

“We’ve got pretty good security at all our county facilities. I wouldn’t be concerned about anybody gaining access,” Hayden said. In any case, his department’s social unrest team is well prepared, he said.

Meanwhile, Howe said his office is “not aware of any immediate threat here in Johnson County in regards to protest.”

Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said while law enforcement is keeping its ‘eyes and ears’ open, he’s not concerned about potential local threats. Above, protestors last week in Washington, D.C.  Photo credit Elvert Barnes. Used under a creative commons license.

In the days following the Washington D.C. riot, extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers have been suspected of organizing the violence in the nation’s capitol. Howe said he’s had intelligence on those groups but demurred from calling them a presence in Johnson County.

“I don’t know that I would say ‘presence,’” Howe said. “I wouldn’t say there’s a quote-unquote presence in Johnson County.

“The intelligence reports we’ve received, I don’t think there’s anything that would rise to the level of us being concerned here in Johnson County. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep our eyes and ears open, but at this point, I’m not concerned about there being issues in our jurisdiction,” he continued.

‘Rules apply equally to each side’

Hayden and Howe raised eyebrows in October when they spoke to a rally in Overland Park supporting law enforcement, which followed a parade of Trump supporters in Johnson County.

That event came just before the Nov. 3 election and also followed weeks of nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd — including several local demonstrations. Both men, at that time, warned the crowd of potential social unrest related to the protests.

Hayden told the crowd that law enforcement in Johnson County would show unruly protesters they’ve “come to the wrong place.” Howe also made comments in support of a St. Louis couple who had been indicted for waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer.

Now, both Hayden and Howe said they will arrest or prosecute in equal measure if laws are broken, regardless of a protesters’ political views.

“The key here is we’re going to be guided by the rule of law,” Hayden said. “If you don’t break the law you aren’t going to have any issues,” he said.

Howe echoed that, saying everyone has a right to protest peacefully but that right stops when laws are broken and violence erupts.

“The rules apply equally to each side and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.