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Protesters gather outside heavily guarded Ohio Statehouse

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Posted at 4:52 PM, Jan 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-17 16:52:05-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An armed protest outside a heavily-guarded Ohio Statehouse came to an end after more than three hours with no incidents on Sunday.

The group of President Donald Trump's supporters assembled at the statehouse to oppose the nation's certified election results ahead of Tuesday's inauguration for president-elect Joe Biden.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and law enforcement officials said they weren't initially certain how large a crowd the protests could attract, but a spokesperson with the Ohio State Highway Patrol said law enforcement on duty were prepared for crowds as small as one person, or as large as thousands.

Crowd turnout remained in flux between dozens to one hundred people at the most throughout the day. Those in attendance included a variety of groups — some in support of President Donald Trump, some arguing against both political parties and counter-protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. A few counter-protesters also carried signs in support of president-elect Joe Biden.

Although many protesters were armed and there were small clashes with counter-protesters, no violence occurred. Police have not announced any arrests associated with the event so far, or anyone injured during the protests, which remained peaceful.

Ahead of Sunday's demonstration, DeWine activated hundreds of members of the Ohio National Guard to guard the statehouse after the FBI warned local jurisdictions of armed protests planned across the country.

In addition to the National Guard, the Ohio State Highway Patrol had a significant presence in Columbus over the weekend, alongside the Columbus Police Department.

The precautions come after the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by armed Trump supporters that left five dead. Trump, who has pushed unproven allegations for widespread election fraud for several months, spoke prior to the riot at the Capitol and encouraged his supporters to march to the building.

DeWine said on Thursday that security at the Ohio Statehouse has always been a priority, but he feels there needs to be a "heightened" sense of security after Trump supporters violently breached the Capitol last week.

“Our First Amendment rights are sacred. We must always, and will always, respect the rights of peaceful protesters. However, I think all Americans were horrified by what we saw just a few days ago in our nation’s Capitol, where a mob attacked the Capitol, where individuals died as a result, and really where the Constitution itself was under attack,” DeWine said.