Local, state law enforcement prepared ahead of planned armed marches

Princeton Mayor Mark Freda said on Thursday that local police are prepared in case there are any incidents this weekend as law enforcement officials across the state and the nation brace for possible armed marches at state capitols on Sunday.

“The police department has taken steps to react as necessary,” Freda said.

Princeton Police Chief Chris Morgan has planned for any possible situations that arise. The police will have extra resources on the weekend, and extra officers will be on call in case an incident escalates, Freda said.

“Princeton is part of the Mercer County Rapid Response Team. We assist each other and can reach out quickly to other departments to send other officers and bolster our police presence quickly if that becomes necessary,” Freda said.

Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, has said there is no specific or credible threat in the state, but that officials are on guard and are preparing in case protests get out of hand or turn violent.

Extremist groups from New Jersey were present at the U.S. Capitol riot Jan. 6, including at least one local resident from the Ewing area who was interviewed on television about participating in the riot. At least three national organizations with a presence in New Jersey were at the riot. On some far-right websites in the state, people have called for residents to protest in Trenton. Some comments in online forums have become violent. NJ Spotlight reported that one commenter urged people to drag people out of the State House in Trenton and “hang them.”

Gov. Phil Murphy has urged residents to stay home this weekend and has tried to discourage counter-protesters from showing up at the State House.

“If you want to go out and express yourself peacefully, we respect that completely,” Murphy said at his regular media briefing on Wednesday. “If you want to protest and use violent means, we will have no patience and we will have no reservations about using the fullest extent of the law against you. And please don’t test us.”

Officials are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. State Police have increased security at the State House. But officials have said it’s unclear who might show up in Trenton and how large the group could be.

The governor sent about 50 state troopers and 500 members of the New Jersey National Guard to Washington in the wake of the Capitol building riot. The governor said New Jersey still has the law enforcement resources to keep the state secure though. New Jersey has more than 8,400 soldiers and airmen in its guard units.

Members of the public can report suspicious activity or any planned violence they know about to the state’s hotline at 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or tips@njohsp.gov.