SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Despite the FBI on Monday warning of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals in the coming days, South Dakota lawmakers in Pierre prepared to launch the legislative session with few concerns about armed groups and one lawmaker encouraging a lie by right-wing pundits that last week's U.S. Capitol violence was perpetrated by left-wing antifa thugs rather than supporters of the president.
“I'm not worried at all,” Sen. John Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican said when asked about whether he was concerned about armed protests contesting the outcome of the presidential election. But he raised doubts about whether it was President Donald Trump's supporters who violently disrupted the U.S. Congress as it certified Democrat Joe Biden as the victor.
Other Republican lawmakers, including legislative leaders responsible for overseeing the conduct of the House and Senate, said they were either not aware or not concerned about protests at the state Capitol. A group of people gathered on Wednesday in Pierre to contest the presidential election, but that gathering remained peaceful, Dakota News Now reported.
The FBI has put out an internal bulletin warning that nationwide protests at state capitals may start later this week and extend through Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“I don't think there's too much concern,” said House Speaker Rep. Steve Haugaard, who will leave his role as Speaker this week. “Everybody here believes that we're pretty isolated.”
Haugaard was spotted attending a “Stop the Steal” rally in Sioux Falls earlier this month, but said that he has not closely followed the news as law enforcement has identified and arrested those involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
But Wiik has raised questions about who the rioters at the U.S. Capitol were, suggesting that they were not supporters of the president.
“No one knows who is who,” he said. “Anyone can put on a Trump hat.”
Records show that the insurrectionist mob was overwhelmingly made up of longtime Trump supporters, including Republican Party officials, GOP political donors, far-right militants, white supremacists, members of the military and adherents of the QAnon myth that the government is secretly controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophile cannibals.
Forum News Service first reported that Wiik had emailed a constituent with debunked evidence to claim that the mob was infiltrated by leftist extremists. In an interview with The Associated Press, Wiik backed off some of the claims in the email, saying, “Let’s just find out who did it and prosecute them individually.”
Tony Mangan, the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety which is responsible for security at the Capitol, said that the department does not comment on security issues.
The Bureau of Administration said it has not received any permit applications to hold a protest or other event on the Capitol grounds.