Agencies Beef Up Security to Protect Federal Buildings Amid Pro-Trump Protests
Thousands flock to Washington as Trump continues to fight against democratic election result.
Federal agency headquarters throughout Washington are receiving extra layers of protection as thousands of President Trump's supporters pour into the capital to protest Congress’ certification of Joe Biden as president-elect.
An area of several blocks surrounding the White House was closed to the public Tuesday, with many streets in a larger radius closed to vehicles. By midday, the Veterans Affairs Department headquarters was boarded up, as was the Export-Import Bank, with both buildings inaccessible except to authorized personnel. Police tape, barricades, officers from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, National Guardsmen and federal personnel all contributed to the blockages around downtown Washington. MPD confirmed it was working with federal officials during the protests.
“While MPD does not discuss operational tactics, as with any known, large demonstration, we are continuing to monitor and assess each activity, and plan accordingly with our local and federal law enforcement partners,” said Alaina Gertz, a spokeswoman for MPD.
Trump supporters gathered in Washington ahead of Congress’ Wednesday certification of electoral votes to formalize Biden’s victory, which the president has falsely called fraudulent and at least a handful of Republican lawmakers will seek to disrupt. As the protesters gathered for speeches and marched in the city, many agency headquarters faced closed streets with government vehicles physically blocking entrance ways. While private businesses throughout the area had already or were in the process of boarding up windows and doors, most federal buildings did not take that step.
Public access was more restricted on Tuesday than during the peak of the protests against police brutality last year, when many federal buildings in Washington were vandalized and otherwise damaged. Also differing from the summer demonstrations was the federal law enforcement presence, which appeared much smaller this time around. Government Executive viewed personnel from the National Park Service on hand for a stage set up on The Ellipse just south of the White House, along with members of the U.S. Park Police, Secret Service and Federal Protective Service, in addition to the D.C. National Guard. Still, the number paled in comparison to the heavy federal presence seen after the police killing of George Floyd when Trump federalized a crackdown on protesters.
Police and other government vehicles blocked traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue and in all directions feeding into it for several blocks. In addition to limiting access to VA and the Export-Import Bank, that prevented vehicles from getting near the headquarters for the departments of Justice, Commerce, and Treasury, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Agency for International Development, Customs and Border Protection and several other agencies. Barricades created a perimeter around the FBI headquarters, while the Justice building had security personnel stationed outside. Workers also were seen readying far more barricades for distribution. The Office of Personnel Management did not respond to an inquiry about whether it was adding flexibilities for employees who report to work in the area, many of whom are working remotely anyway due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protests and rallies on Tuesday were peaceful, as Trump supporters from around the country gathered, clad in Make America Great Again attire, and chanted that the president should serve four more years and implored members of Congress to “stop the steal.” The largest events are expected to take place on Wednesday.