Montana Capitol not making major security changes after U.S. Capitol protests

Posted at 5:09 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 20:35:16-05

HELENA — After pro-Trump protesters broke into the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Montana leaders say they’re closely monitoring the national situation, but they’re not making major changes to security procedures at the State Capitol.

Steve Baiamonte, administrator of Montana’s General Services Division, is director of security for the Capitol Complex, which includes all state buildings in Helena. He said they had anticipated there might be protests in Washington, D.C. and in Helena Wednesday, and they were already in their emergency operations center when they got the news of what happened.

“We had it ramped up, and we were in here long before anything even started in D.C.,” he said.

Baiamonte said they already have additional security resources on hand at the Capitol because the Legislature is in session. He said they have made plans for a wide variety of possible security issues, and Wednesday’s events didn’t force them to make any substantial adjustments.

“While you never can be absolutely sure what is going to happen when you have a group of people and the unpredictability of what can happen with a crowd, we have had lots of contingency plans in place,” he said. “It’s really more of making a different call in the middle of the game, as opposed to developing a whole new play.”

Baiamonte didn’t want to release specific information about security procedures at the Capitol for safety reasons. They have a contract with the Montana Highway Patrol to provide service, and he said they also work closely with other local law enforcement.

About 100 people attended a demonstration in support of President Trump in front of the Montana State Capitol Wednesday. Leaders didn’t report any significant incidents involving that protest.

Baiamonte said their objective is to maintain security while having as little impact as possible on people at the Capitol.

“We truly respect the fact that it’s the people’s house, that you have a right to come here to testify, and you have a right to come here to protest, and you have a right to come here just to walk around and look at your Capitol,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that everybody can do that and respect each other’s rights to do the same.”

Baiamonte said they will continue to watch the situation around the country in the coming days and weeks. He said they have heard of 15 to 20 state capitols that reported security incidents Wednesday.