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'Pretty Mild Protest': Beefed-Up Minn. Capitol Security Heavily Outnumbers Handful Of Demonstrators

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Hundreds of Minnesota National Guard and Minnesota State Patrol officers are standing by at the Minnesota State Capitol, discouraging any possible unrest ahead of this week's inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

A handful of protesters gathered at the Capitol on Sunday, but they were heavily outnumbered by the increased security presence -- and even members of the media. Some of the protesters were waving flags, but most sat talking in camping chairs. The number of state troopers dropped dramatically in the early evening. Dozens stood guard over what amounted to a few small pockets of protesters.

Jesse Frink, of Bemidji, was at the Capitol handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution.

"Pretty mild, pretty slow protest, if this is a protest today. I was thinking there was going to be more people here," Frink said. "Right now, the best thing we can have is cool heads, cooler heads will prevail in the end. I can see where people are getting very angry, you know, both sides again. We need to look at all of it from a very objective standpoint though. It doesn't mean anything to take a building anymore. It doesn't mean anything, you know. You have to win hearts and minds of people."

RELATED: 850 Minnesota National Guard Troops In DC For Inauguration

Even fewer people were at the governor's residence in St. Paul, where no one showed up to protest on Sunday. The only people to be seen there were State Patrol troopers in their yellow, high-visibility jackets.

Security was beefed up at the Capitol, the governor's mansion and at federal buildings this week following reports of planned armed protests at capitol buildings across the country leading up to Wednesday's inauguration. There was particular concern for Minnesota after an FBI report specifically mentioned recent activity from the Boogaloo Bois, a far-right group.

Capitol Protest Jan. 17
(credit: CBS)

Heading into the weekend, however, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI said there were no immediate credible threats in the state. Still, they urged people to be vigilant. Tim Waters is the FBI's special agent in charge of the Detroit Field Office.

"Our focus is in identifying violent agitators and extremists who use the guise of First Amendment protected activity to incite violence and wreak havoc as we saw at the Capitol," Waters said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, where he said the FBI is telling him they don't see any specific, credible threats at the state capitol, but they'd rather be safe than sorry.

"We're on high alert because of the general volatility. Our FBI is telling us they are tracking those individuals who they think … may have been kind of presenting those kinds of specific threats. And they're at a space right now where we continue to be on a state of high readiness because this moment is just so insane," Carter said.

Roads around the state Capitol have been closed to traffic. Federal buildings, such as courthouses, are being protected, as are the homes of some elected officials. The increased security measures at in place following the deadly violence at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building as Congress was certifying Biden's election victory.

Law enforcement leaders in Minnesota say they're in regular communication with county, state and federal officials to coordinate and prepare for any unrest in the days ahead.

A new CBS News poll finds more than 70% of Americans feel U.S. democracy is threatened.

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