RALEIGH, N.C. — The sheriff whose county includes the state's seat of government said Tuesday his office is ready to assist if needed.

An internal FBI bulletin has warned armed protests are planned in all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said his office is monitoring any potential threats. He said routine drills such as K-9 practice have taken on new urgency in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“We must be prepared, we are prepared. We're going to take it as it comes, and so we don't want to be hurt, and we don't want to have to harm anyone else,” he said. “But we'll respond, we'll react.”

Baker's deputies and their state and municipal counterparts won't lack for real-world experience. Last spring saw a number of protests against COVID-19 restrictions. Those protests remained peaceful, though in some cases small groups brought guns and other weapons. Then in May and June, massive protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis led to two nights of rioting in downtown Raleigh.

The N.C. State Capitol Police are responsible for securing most state government buildings. That agency and the Highway Patrol both report to Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks. In response to inquiries to the two agencies, Hooks released a statement saying North Carolina's law enforcement entities “are engaged with our local, state and federal partners to identify and address a myriad of public safety threats.” During a Tuesday afternoon news conference by the state's COVID-19 task force, Hooks said he spoke with the FBI on Monday night about potential threats. He would not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, downtown businesses are bracing for what could be another rough patch. Some told Spectrum News 1 on background they had hired security to watch their property and are considering boarding back up. At Benny Capitale's, a pizza shop near the N.C. Capitol, employee Emmanuel Iluyomade said the restaurant has already had to replace the windows once, following the May 2020 riots. He said he hopes any protests don't lead to clashes which, in turn, cause an overreaction from state officials.

Baker said his office is mainly concerned with protecting the county buildings downtown but his deputies would be ready to help if needed. He noted state law prohibits weapons at any demonstration. He said people are welcome to engage in their constitutional right to protest but they should leave their guns at home.

“We all know that being armed changes the mentality of a person. That's a fact,” he said.

Raleigh police said in a statement they are monitoring the situation but would not comment further on their preparations.