‘Armed protests’ never materialize as armed Illinois National Guard patrols state capitol

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(The Center Square) – It’s unclear how long the Illinois National Guard will have patrols around a boarded up Illinois state capitol complex, but residents can expect to see soldiers deployed in counties across the state for a different mission.

Last week, the FBI said in a bulletin there could be armed protests in state capitals across the country. Gov. J.B. Pritkzer ordered the Illinois National Guard to Springfield.

Illinois National Guard Major General Richard Neely Saturday said hundreds of Illinois’ troops have returned home from overseas missions and are now heavily engaged in domestic operations.

“With 250 soldiers assisting law enforcement here in Springfield as they secure the capitol and some 300 additional soldiers and airmen to help secure the presidential inauguration in the nation’s capital,” Neely said.

Windows at the Illinois state capitol building were boarded up Friday. Signs were posted saying “Illinois law prohibits open carry of firearms” while soldiers could be seen carrying rifles.

Saturday and Sunday in Springfield, there were more soldiers than there were demonstrators. At one point Saturday, it was reported there were two people demonstrating.

Neely didn’t give specifics about any possible threats, and couldn’t give a timeline of when the posture would be relaxed.

“We will review that and look at that based on the criteria at the time and be a needs-based assessment on whether or not we stayed engaged in some of these different areas,” he said.

But, he did say by the first week of February, about 400 soldiers will be deployed around the state for another mission, assisting in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We expect to have more than 400 service members assisting communities across the state in distributing and administering this life-saving vaccination,” Neely said.

A lot of the guard’s vaccine mission will focus on Cook County, with assistance to other counties throughout the state as needed, he said.

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