WASHINGTON (AP) – The primary sound for many blocks was the beeping of over-fencing forklifts, all through the city of Washington.
There were no cars or scooters and there seems to be no tourists on Wednesday, just occasional joggers and several construction teams. The US Capitol, which proved to be such a soft target last week, was only visible through long, black fence lines.
Two blocks from the White House, a group of uniformed National Guard soldiers emerged from a tour bus and walked into a hotel in Washington as a state of lockdown that would run through the inauguration on 20 January. Officials said Thursday that the number of National Guard soldiers coming to Washington to enforce the law with safety has increased to about 26,000.
“Clearly we are in untouched water,” said Mayor of Washington, Muriel Boeser.
Last week’s “violent rebellion” is influencing the way outgoing President Donald Trump’s supporters at the Capitol “worked with our federal allies in planning for the 59th inauguration,” Bowser said Wednesday.
FBI warns of armed protests by violent Trump supporters The days leading up to the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden were being planned in the capitals of all 50 states, as well as in Washington.
Between the epidemic and the security threat, Bowser is flat-out, telling people not to come to the District of Columbia for the inauguration. And at Bowser’s request, a National Special Security Incident Declaration was moved on 13 January, a distinction he said “holds a completely separate command and control structure” for security.
The NSSE position is typical for presidential inaugurations and other major events such as the International Summit or Super Bowl. But it is rare to initiate a lockdown so far before the event.
Police vehicles sealed a huge swath of downtown DC on Wednesday, causing immediate traffic scorches. Starting Wednesday, Bowser said, anyone inside the opening perimeter can be stopped and questioned. Starting Friday, all parking garages in the downtown restricted area will be sealed through the opening. Bowser is asking DC residents to avoid the downtown area altogether, and the city announced that 13 metro stations inside the security perimeter would remain closed for several days.
Bauser is also being pushed to deny potentially violent protesters a choice. Local Black Lives Matter affiliate and Shutdown DC issued a joint statement Wednesday urging all downtown hotels to voluntarily close and pay their employees. In addition to the threat of violence, activist groups say Trump supporters’ refusal to wear facemasks during the epidemic poses a threat to the health of hotel employees. Several downtown hotels, including a militant Proud Boy faction’s favorite hangout, chose to close last week to avoid trouble.
The statement said, “Completely closing the hotel for these six nights is the only way to guarantee the safety of hotel personnel, neighbors, vulnerable and non-residents, incoming administration officials, members of Congress and our democracy.” is.” “If the hotels do not close voluntarily, we ask Mayor Bower to extend today’s emergency order and close all hotels in the city.”
On Wednesday, Airbnb announced that it was canceling all reservations in the Washington metro area. Bauser said she had been in regular contact with AirBnB officials since last week, but did not specifically request the move.
“We are aware of reports that arose yesterday afternoon about armed militias and known hate groups attempting to disrupt the visit and opening,” a company statement said. “We are continuing our work to ensure that members of the hate group are not part of the AirBnB community.”
On the ground, the most visible defenses will come in the form of National Guard soldiers, some of whom are armed. Pentagon officials approved requests to some of them to carry long guns or handguns, especially near the Capitol building. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss security details.
National Guard members operate under strict rules of engagement on the use of force. But generally, the military can use deadly force to protect the lives of others and themselves.
DC Police Chief Robert Conte estimated Wednesday that more than 20,000 National Guard members would be active in the city on Inauguration Day. But officials said on Thursday that the number increased to 26,000 based on additional requests from law enforcement agencies.
As of Thursday, the city already has about 7,000, with thousands more en route. The length of their operations may vary, but Defense Department officials were authorized to deploy guards for 30 days for the inauguration and surrounding protests.
Officials say guard members from all 50 states are stationed in the city, even though each state is on alert against violent protests or attacks in its state capital.