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Gov. Cuomo: Security being increased at the State Capitol

Members of the New York state Assembly work

Members of the New York state Assembly work in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol in Albany on Monday.   Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that the state and FBI are increasing security at the state Capitol for this weekend and at least through the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden following a federal alert that warned of potential violence at state capitals

"On the increased security, yes we got the FBI alerts," Cuomo said Tuesday when asked about security for this weekend and beyond. "State police are working on it. We'll have increased security during that period of time."

The FBI alert stated: "Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitals from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January."

The FBI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer called Tuesday for anyone who trespassed in the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 be put on the government's no-fly list. And Nassau County police outlined plans to beef up security at government buildings and other sites.

Security had already been bolstered at the Capitol in downtown Albany since the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump. Concrete barriers have been placed on Albany streets near the Capitol and the state police presence has been increased.

"Given recent events in Washington and across the country, the New York State Police has, out of an abundance of caution, taken steps to harden security in and around the State Capitol in Albany," said William Duffy, spokesman for the state police. "These restrictions are in place until further notice."

Duffy wouldn’t further discuss those precautions to avoid jeopardizing the plans.

Michael Balboni, the former state homeland security adviser who served on the homeland security transition teams of Barack Obama and Cuomo, said Sunday could bring an Albany demonstration, but not the deadly riot that played out in Washington a week ago.

"If you are just going to try to make a show of force, Sunday could be a concern, but not so much from a security perspective, not like in Washington," said Balboni, president of Redland Strategies based in Manhattan. "It’s going to be hard to get that kind of numbers in a capital like Albany or Hartford. You might get several hundred, but they won’t be able to do anything like breaching barriers."

Balboni said any federal, state or local courthouse or government building also could see gatherings Sunday and beyond. He also said he has spoken with contacts who are former federal security agents who explained that the demonstrators and potential threat is complicated because it appears to have no central organization and includes other anti-government groups.

Schumer, at a Manhattan news conference, cited a letter he sent Tuesday to the FBI and Transportation Security Administration urging that the "insurrectionists" — anyone who entered the Capitol without permission — be added to the federal government’s do-not-fly list, which was set up in the aftermath of 9/11 to stop aviation hijackings.

Schumer deferred all questions about his proposal — Would the ban be indefinite? What’s the threshold for inclusion? What are the due-process protections? Could the designation be used for similar activity in the future? — to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security’s interpretation of existing law.

Schumer’s remarks were disrupted twice by hecklers. A man shouted "traitor" and said, "You’re going down, buddy." Then a woman went on a profanity-laced rant calling Schumer a "racist," deeming him and other Democrats hypocrites for supporting the unrest last year over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and threatening to protest at Schumer’s home.

The TSA Monday said it was enhancing security at the three major airports around Washington, D.C., and that travelers on no-fly lists would not be allowed to board planes.

In Nassau, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said he has had regular briefings from the FBI, State Police and NYPD and while there is no "credible threat" to the county or its facilities, his department will beef up security and patrols at its 135 government buildings, 11 hospitals, 56 school districts, 486 houses of worship, 59 transportation centers and 71 fire departments.

"This is not a political issue," Ryder said at a news briefing Tuesday in Mineola. "It’s about law and order."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said while First Amendment rights will be respected, violence will not be tolerated. "Our number one concern on the local level … is your safety," she said.

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