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Police move to increase security at Pennsylvania Capitol

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton The Pennsylvania State Capitol was a hub of activity into the evening yesterday as both the House and Senate signed off on a resolution directing Gov. Tom Wolf to end his COVID-19 disaster declaration.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Police who guard the Pennsylvania Capitol are working to be more visible and have been coordinating plans with other agencies to secure the building since a violent mob stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol last week, a Department of General Services spokesperson said Monday.

Troy Thompson, speaking for the state agency that oversees the Capitol Police, said efforts to ensure the safety of those working in the building and the protection of the complex began after the riot Wednesday that followed a rally speech by President Donald Trump.

“The PA Capitol Police is enhancing its visible presence and will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement entities,” Thompson said, noting the building is closed to all visitors because of the pandemic.

As for the potential for mass gatherings at the Capitol in the days or weeks ahead, Thompson said the agency hasn’t been contacted by anyone regarding a permit.

People can usually assemble outside the building without a permit, but they can’t use space for which another group has already received a permit, Thompson said. All permitted gatherings are posted on the General Services website.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Monday that he has kept in touch in recent days with the Senate security force and that he expects to meet in person with them Tuesday.

“The Capitol Police, obviously, protect the building,” Corman said. “We have Senate security, which I oversee. And we have been in touch with our head of security in the Senate.”

He said Capitol Police can request additional resources if needed.

“As of now, they have not asked for any new resources,” Corman said.

A state police spokesperson on Monday declined immediate comment but said additional information might be released later in the day.

Republican leaders of both legislative chambers said Monday they were not aware of any legislative employees or sitting state lawmakers, except Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, being at the scene of the Capitol attack in Washington last week.

Corman and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, have said Mastriano’s account of his actions in Washington do not warrant action by the chamber.

Mastriano issued a statement late Wednesday saying he did not enter the Capitol or go beyond police lines, and left with his wife when he realized it was not peaceful. Senate Democrats have said Mastriano should resign.

“Senator Mastriano said he did not enter the Capitol Building nor incite violence while exercising his Constitutionally protected First Amendment right last week so no charges have been filed against him,” Ward said in an email Monday. “Let me know if I’m wrong.”

House Republican spokesperson Jason Gottesman said members and employees are bound by House rules, and that “everybody is bound by the law and there are ongoing state and federal criminal investigations into law week’s events.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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