FBI conducting vast security sweep as Sunday’s protests see law enforcement and media outnumber members of ‘Boogaloo Bois’ Members of the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ protest against the election of Joe Biden in Lansing, Michigan, on 17 January. Photograph: Rebecca Cook/Reuters The FBI is vetting all 25,000 National Guard troops arriving in Washington DC for president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration amid fears of an insider attack, as heavily fortified state capitals across the US saw only small-scale protests by far-right groups on Sunday. Commanders have been warned to be on the lookout for problems within their ranks, and Guard members are being trained to identify potential insider threats, army secretary Ryan McCarthy told the Associated Press. “We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview on Sunday after he and other military leaders went through a three-hour security drill. So far, however, he and other leaders said they had not seen evidence of any such threats, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues. The warning came after muted protests across the country saw only a handful of armed men showing up to planned rightwing demonstrations. Following the pro-Trump insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January, governors in many states had mobilized the national guard, erected fences around government buildings, and in some cases even cancelled official business, amid warnings from law enforcement agencies of armed protests in all 50 states ahead of Biden’s inauguration. On Sunday, the only far-right groups that were visible at the protests were the ones who had first promoted the event: members of the “Boogaloo Bois”, an extremist pro-gun and anti-government movement fixated on a coming civil war. Their desire to make the protest happen across all 50 states was not realized, and even in the states where protests took place, they were unable to muster significant numbers. In Salem, Oregon, where the state capitol was breached in December, and where dozens of far-right protesters clashed with Oregon state police on 1 January, the entire protest consisted of eight heavily armed Boogaloo Bois, compared with more than 20 reporters. In Lansing, Michigan, where the state’s capitol was also breached by armed men in April, and where men with alleged Boogaloo ties were charged in a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, this fall, about a dozen Boogaloo Bois showed up to protest, according to local news reports. One journalist estimated the Boogaloo Bois stayed for about 30 minutes. About a dozen people who appear to be boogaloo boys accompanied by a fair number of media members walk to the front of the Capitol pic.twitter.com/rUjWvP6F3C— Dave Boucher (@Dave_Boucher1) January 17, 2021 In Ohio, there were about two dozen protesters at the capitol in all, some armed with assault-style rifles and wearing military gear. Several identified themselves as part of the Boogaloo movement. In Colorado, there were a handful of Boogaloo Bois at the state capitol, and in New Hampshire, there were five, the New York Times reported. In Arizona, there were about 10 protesters at the state capitol, the Arizona Republic reported, with two men captured in photographs wearing the Hawaiian shirts paired with a military-style rifle that the Boogaloo Bois chose as their uniform. The National Guard vetting process began as the first troops began deploying to DC more than a week ago, according to multiple officials. “The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” said McCarthy. “We need to be conscious of it and we need to put all of the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this.” “This is a national priority. We have to be successful as an institution,” said McCarthy. “We want to send the message to everyone in the United States and for the rest of the world that we can do this safely and peacefully.” Since June, prosecutors have charged multiple Boogaloo Bois in a series of violent incidents, including the alleged murders of a federal security officer and a sheriff’s deputy in California, an alleged plot to set off molotov cocktails at a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas, and the alleged plot to kidnap a Democratic governor of Michigan. View from Lansing, MI https://t.co/syDrL5Kv4n— Anna Liz Nichols (@annaliznichols) January 17, 2021 Asked in a text message about the limited success of the protests on Sunday, Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman Michael Edison Hayden said: “Boogaloo adherents voiced quixotic plans for Sunday. They ran up against obstacles in achieving them in the aftermath of the violence on 6 January and lost access to websites they typically use to bring crowds together.” An influential Boogaloo movement website that analysts said had first advertised the national protests on Sunday was taken offline last week. And amid fallout from the Capitol riot, Sunday’s protests themselves had become a point of contention in the remaining online platforms that far-right activists could access. In a group dedicated to refugees from Parler, the far-right-friendly social media platform whose hosting was yanked by Amazon a week ago, users clashed over the planned protests, with some arguing the events were a “false flag”, and a trap laid by antifascists or law enforcement. A sign reads ‘Warning weapons prohibited’ on a temporary fence outside the state capitol in Sacramento, California, on 17 January. Photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA Beyond social media, far-right leaders also expressed reservations about joining the actions. Even as the FBI circulated warnings in the past week about new potential armed demonstrations, some prominent leaders of extremist groups who had a presence at the Capitol attack claimed publicly that they did not want their followers to attend protests this week. Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, one of the country’s most prominent anti-government militias, was captured on video talking to militia members outside the Capitol on 6 January. In an email to supporters Thursday, Rhodes joined other extremists in asking Trump to declare martial law, but he also said they should not gather at state capitols to protest, warning them of “false-flag traps”. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the neo-fascist Proud Boys, told USA Today that his group was not mobilizing as part of inauguration protests. “I feel like this part of the battle is over,” he said. White nationalist streamer Nicholas Fuentes said to “steer clear” of the inauguration, warning of an increased military presence. A lone MAGA protester left his sign near the statehouse in Trenton after he realized no one else showed up to the pro-Trump state capital rally today. pic.twitter.com/hUj6FvlW2U— Matt Katz (@mattkatz00) January 17, 2021 Jared Holt, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, where he monitors extremist groups online, said that as Boogaloo activists had tried to broaden the appeal of the 17 January protests, they became conflated with the “stop the steal” movement and other strands of pro-Trump protest. But Holt says that in the wake of 6 January, “the far right has become feverishly paranoid about any events surrounding the inauguration”. Researchers who monitor extremist groups said that the sweeping bans and takedowns of far-right accounts in the past 10 days had left many groups in disarray, and that the ongoing arrests of people who participated in the Capitol attack also appear to be having a deterrent effect. The Associated Press contributed to this report.