A large group of rioters, many holding signs and wearing logos endorsing Donald Trump, breached the gate to the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday afternoon, during an day of protest on the Capitol Campus.
Gov. Jay Inslee and his family were in a secure location at the time, according to a tweet from the Washington State Patrol. Rioters occupied the mansion grounds for approximately 30 minutes but did not gain entry into the mansion itself.
The protest and riot in Olympia occurred the same day as TV screens and newsfeeds were filled with images of an occupation of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., which led to the shooting death of a woman. There, pro-Trump rioters clashed with police and broke into federal buildings.
Wright wasn’t sure at the time how many rioters entered the mansion grounds. Images circulating on social media depict a crowd of about 50 or larger.
WSP Public Information Officer Darren Wright said authorities were notified of the breached gate just before 3 p.m. Wright spoke during a press conference on the capitol campus that started at 4:15 p.m. At that time, he couldn’t confirm that there had been any arrests made, although he did say that going on the mansion grounds was illegal trespassing.
“There will be investigations on what happened, and we’ll look into what’s appropriate and if there are charges appropriate, we’ll forward those to the prosecutor’s office for determination,” he said.
Wright noted that arresting one member of a riot can sometimes agitate others, and make the situation worse. Rather, he said the crowd that went through the gate dispersed peacefully once WSP gave them orders to leave.
He noted the gate accessing the mansion had been damaged, but was still standing.
“WSP is investigating how the breach occurred, and will take necessary steps to make sure there are no repeat occurrences of this event,” he said.
WSP was assisted by multiple agencies in dispersing the crowd, including the Olympia Police Department and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
WSP Director of Communications Chris Loftis said during the press conference that WSP has been preparing for demonstrations on the campus by far-right groups starting on Monday — the start of the 2021 legislative session. Some groups, responding to lies, refuted claims of election interference and rhetoric from Trump, expressed intention to occupy the capitol building.
Loftis said authorities are preparing for a worst case scenario, but eschewed making predictions of what the day might hold.
“The old adage is be ready for a grizzly bear and hope for a chipmunk. We’ll be ready for a large crowd, we’ll be ready for belligerence, we’ll be ready for conflict,” he said.