Retailers are keeping an eye on developments leading up to Inauguration Day as the country’s principal federal law enforcement agency warns about possible “armed protests” a week after a violent mob breached the United States Capitol.
According to an internal bulletin from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was obtained by multiple media outlets, armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitals from Jan. 15 to at least Jan. 20 as well as the U.S. Capitol from Jan. 17 to Jan. 20. A number of stores near those government seats — including shoe chain DSW, department store Macy’s and family-owned business Comfort One Shoes — are now bracing for another potential insurrection.
DSW was among the retailers that shuttered their doors in the Washington, D.C. area last week as the rampage at the country’s legislative center left five people dead, including a police officer. (Investigators are still tracking down people who participated in the riot.) The Columbus, Ohio-based company has three stores in the nation’s capital — two of which are within four miles of the U.S. Capitol.
“The health and safety of our customers, associates, and the communities we serve is always our No. 1 priority,” said a spokesperson for DSW parent Designer Brands Inc. “Knowing that more protests are planned for this week, we are monitoring the situation nationally and on a state level, so we are prepared to implement appropriate safety measures if need be.”
Similarly, while it did not indicate whether it would board up stores or temporarily shut down its locations (one of them located just steps away from the California State Capitol in Sacramento), a Macy’s spokesperson told FN, “The safety of our colleagues and customers is our top priority. Our teams are closely monitoring potential issues in nearby locations, and we will take precautions as necessary.”
At Comfort One Shoes, which currently operates two stores in northwest D.C., SVP Shawn O’Neill recalled having to close up shop earlier than usual and send home store associates following the events at the Capitol. Defense officials have planned to station up to 20,000 National Guard troops to Washington, D.C. for President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
“I think the Capitol is going to be incredibly secure,” he told FN. “We are feeling much safer today than a week ago.”
Still, O’Neill shared, “We’ve spoken directly with everyone and asked if anybody was uncomfortable working [on Inauguration Day]. We also made sure that the employees who take [public transportation] or travel anywhere near the Capitol to go into work are not working that day.”