Amid riot fears, Washington lawmakers plan in-person session

Washington state lawmakers are defending their plan to open the legislative session in person Monday following the siege of the nation’s Capitol building in Washington, D.C., as well as the storming of the governor’s property in Olympia by President Donald Trump’s loyalists — including some who were armed and attacked or threatened journalists.

Leaders from both parties spoke during an online preview of the legislative session hosted by The Associated Press on Thursday, saying the state Constitution requires lawmakers to meet in person, that gathering in the Capitol would be safer than elsewhere, and that it is crucial to demonstrate that lawmakers will not be intimidated from doing the people’s business.

The Capitol building will remain closed to the public and lobbyists during the 105-day session due to the pandemic, and lawmakers will do their work through a mix of virtual meetings and on-site votes. The agenda includes dealing with pressing issues related to the pandemic, like support for struggling businesses and renters, and police reform.

A right-wing militia had encouraged its members to occupy the Capitol when the Legislature meets. However, an organizer of the planned occupation of the Capitol, Tyler Miller of the group Hazardous Liberty, canceled the event in a Facebook post Wednesday night. But Miller says he expects some protesters will still likely show up Monday.

The Washington State Patrol says it plans to have a substantial law enforcement presence at the Capitol next week, and there has been days of planning to ensure things go smoothly. (AP)