FBI Jacksonville ‘ready to respond to any threat of violence or criminal activity’

Message comes after Capitol riot and ahead of inauguration

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The FBI Jacksonville Division is prepared to respond to any threats of violence or criminal activity in North Florida.

FBI Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas sent that message in a letter to the media.

The letter, dated Jan. 15, reads, in part:

“As the leader of the FBI Jacksonville Division, I want to assure you that my team stands ready to respond to any threat of violence or criminal activity that falls within our federal jurisdiction. We will not tolerate those who seek to wreak havoc in our communities, and we have deployed our full investigative resources to this effort. This includes, but is not limited to, hundreds of agents and analysts who are working around the clock to hold accountable those who were responsible for the violent actions at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and to identify, investigate, and disrupt individuals who are intent on inciting more violence in the future. This work is being fully coordinated with our federal, state, and local partners, and together we are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all citizens across North Florida.”

The message comes after an internal FBI bulletin warned of the potential for armed protests at the nation’s Capitol and all 50 state capitol buildings beginning this weekend.

Rojas told News4Jax last week that she has been working with local, state and federal agencies, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“We are going through every single tip,” Rojas said. “We take everybody’s information very seriously, and we share that accordingly to our partners immediately.”

The threat of potentially violent demonstrations prompted some governors to ramp up security on Sunday, less than two weeks after a mob overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Fencing, boarded-up windows and extra police and National Guard troops transformed some statehouses ahead of expected protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

News4Jax political analyst Rick Mullaney, head of Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute, said the inauguration will be unlike any in the history of the United States.

“The two biggest factors, of course, No. 1 is the pandemic -- first time of an inauguration during a pandemic. Even the pandemic a century ago in 1918, that pandemic had largely subsided by the inauguration in 1921. That’s going to result in social distancing, much some crowds and a fundamental change,” Mullaney said Sunday on “The Morning Show.” “The second, of course, are the D.C. riots on Jan. 6. That has resulted in heightened security, and, therefore, it’s going to look very different. Instead of 200,000 people attending, you may have 2,000.”

Mullaney said that while there has been heightened security at previous inaugurations, this year’s will also be different.

“We have had heightened security before. We had it after 9/11. We had it in 2009 when Barack Obama was inaugurated. But this year’s heightened security is unlike any in our history -- over 20,000 National Guard troops, the closing of the National Mall, security around the country and in D.C. in anticipation and concern over those protests,” he said. “I’m hopeful and very optimistic that we will see nothing like what we saw in the D.C. riots -- this will both be a deterrent to that -- I’m hopeful you are not going to see that. But, certainly, security precautions are being taken.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday activated the Florida National Guard to assist state and local law enforcement agencies. The governor’s executive order mobilizing the National Guard was issued “in response to reports of potential civil unrest,” DeSantis’ office said in a news release. The state also deployed 600 National Guard troopers to help protect the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said in a statement Friday: “If you represent a threat to public safety, we will come for you, we will find you, and we will prosecute you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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