Washington D.C. Officials Shut Down Areas Around Capitol and Downtown Amid Growing Threats of Violence
Downtown Washington, D.C. is shut down for the most part. Forklifts have been bringing in lots of fencing to protect the U.S. Capitol and surrounding areas from potential rioters and insurrectionists.
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There have been no cars or scooters and little to no tourists in the week since the area around the U.S. Capitol has been shut down. It’s mostly been construction crews working the area to secure it. What ended up being a soft target, the U.S. Capitol is now seen through a tall fence erected.
The fence is being used to protect Congress members and the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris on Jan. 20.
With Washington D.C. on lockdown, a group of uninformed National Guard troopers have descended into the Capitol and will continue to remain in place until the inauguration is over.
According to National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the number of troops helping with the security has surpassed 20,000. With law enforcement agencies pouring over evidence of possible threats, this number is likely to grow, he told Vice President Mike Pence.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said it was clear that these are unprecedented times. Bowser said the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection, which led to five people’s death, changed how the city would work with the federal entities and its planning of the 59th inauguration.
Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters are responsible for the failed Capitol Hill insurrection.
The FBI announced Trump supporters are planning more violent protests, but in all 50 state capitols along with Washington, D.C. for the days that lead up to Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Bowser has asked people not to visit the D.C. area on Jan. 20, not just because of the heightened security threat but also the pandemic. Bowser also requested the National Special Security Event declaration be moved to Jan. 13 – something that enacts another kind of command and control security structure.
This NSSE status happens around important events such as the Super Bowl, international summit and presidential inaugurations. However, it’s rare for a lockdown to happen so far before the event begins.
Traffic problems began last week after police vehicles had shut down huge sections of downtown D.C. Bowser said anybody found within the inauguration permitted would be stopped and questioned. Downtown parking garages have also been closed until after the inauguration. Bowser has asked city residents to avoid downtown complexly.
The city also said 13 Metro stations in the security boundary would be closed.
The major was also urged to deny hotel stays to possible violent protestors. A joint statement from the local Black Lives Matter group and Shutdown DC suggested that downtown hotels temporarily close their doors but still pay the staff. Besides the potential violence threat, both groups say Trump supporters are a menace to hotel staff for the lack of masks during the pandemic.
The groups said the best way to ensure hotel workers, homeless and Congress members’ safety was to shut the hotels down. They said if hotels refused, they would ask the mayor to intercede and order their closures.
Many downtown hotels opted to close their doors last week to stave off possible trouble.
Airbnb also took unprecedented steps to cancel any Washington metro area reservation. According to Bowser, she has been in touch with the company officials but denies asking for their help.
According to the company, they had heard of reports that known hate groups and armed militias were trying to travel to the Capitol and cause mayhem at the Inauguration. Airbnb said it wanted to make sure no hate group members were a part of their community.
From the ground, National Guard troops make up the visible security; some of them will carry handguns while others will carry long guns. This is especially true of those who will protect the Capitol building. They are permitted to use lethal force if it is to protect theirs and others’ lives but will still follow the strict engagement rules.
Mission timeframes vary, but officials at the Defense Department said the guard can be deployed for up to 30 days for protests and the inauguration.
State leaders have focused on securing their capitals, preparing for the possibility of violent attacks or protests. However, they have agreed to send troops that will help with securing and supporting the U.S. Capitol