D.C. Mayor Asks For More Inauguration Security
Multiple armed protests are reportedly being planned for later this month.
The mayor of Washington, D.C., asked the Trump administration on Saturday to bolster security preparations for Inauguration Day following the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
The Secret Service, a division of the Homeland Security Department, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and the Biden Inaugural Committee all affirmed commitments to safety for January 20, in the wake of the January 6 breach at the Capitol as lawmakers were certifying the results of the presidential election. However, Mayor Muriel Bowser––who presides over a city in which the federal government controls much of the law enforcement––sent a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf outlining more actions she would like his department and others to take. Although the inauguration activities will be largely virtual due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there will still be some in-person events.
According to an FBI bulletin, armed protests are being planned for all 50 state capitals between January 16 and January 20 and at the U.S. Capitol starting January 17, ABC News reported on Monday. There are also plans to “storm” state, local and federal government courthouses and buildings if Trump is removed from office before January 20 as well as the day Biden is inaugurated.
“We are extremely concerned about the upcoming national special security event led by the United States Secret Service,” Bowser wrote. Inauguration Day “will require a very different approach than previous inaugurations given the chaos, injury, and death experienced at the United States Capitol during the insurrection. While I will be reaching out to a broad range of local, regional, and federal partners to enhance cooperation among our bodies, I strongly urge [Homeland Security] to adjust its approach to the Inauguration in several specific ways.”
She requested that the department:
- Extend the national special security event period from Monday, January 11, to Sunday, January 24, as opposed to January 19-21, to allow for better interagency coordination and preparation.
- Ask Congress for permission to include the Capitol grounds in the security perimeter.
- Issue a pre-disaster emergency declaration under the Stafford Act to “enhance and expedite direct federal assistance needed to prepare” (Bowser noted during a press briefing on Monday morning that D.C. got this approval for President Obama’s inauguration in 2009).
- Coordinate with the Defense and Justice departments, Congress and Supreme Court to create a “security and federal force deployment plan” to secure federal property, so the Metropolitan Police Department can focus on “its local mission in the district’s eight wards.”
The mayor added in the letter that she asked acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to direct the FBI to give a daily briefing on intelligence and threats from January 11-24 to the D.C. government, Metropolitan Police Department and all other D.C. law enforcement agencies.
She also asked the Interior Department to cancel or deny all public gathering permits in the city from January 11-24. “We have made this request repeatedly since June 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bowser wrote. “This week demonstrated the National Park Service’s willingness to approve last minute permits and major adjustments.”
An Interior spokesperson told Government Executive on Monday, “We are in regular communication with the city and mayor’s office, and the secretary will be talking to the mayor this afternoon.” The National Park Service, a division of Interior, “has shared information about all permit requests since last year with the mayor’s office. Despite what the mayor said, the NPS did not receive requests during the summer from her office to suspend permitting.”
Also, NPS announced it closed access to the Washington Monument from January 11-24 following the Capitol riots and potential threats at Inauguration and “may institute temporary closures of public access to roadways, parking areas and restrooms within the National Mall and Memorial Parks if conditions warrant, protecting public safety and park resources.”
None of the federal agencies responded to requests for comment. However, Wolf issued a statement on Monday afternoon saying that due to the “evolving security landscape,” he instructed the Service Service to begin their national special security event operations six days early, on January 13. “Our federal, state and local partners will continue to coordinate their plans and position for resources for this important event.” On Monday evening, multiple news outlets reported that Wolf was resigning, despite his earlier statement last Thursday that he would not step down before Inauguration Day.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard, told reporters on Monday there are currently about 6,200 National Guard soldiers and airmen already in the D.C. region and up to 15,000 in total could be deployed to support inauguration operations.
In the aftermath of the riots, Rosen, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Wolf and acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller all issued statements condemning the violence and the latter two committed to ensuring a peaceful transition of power.
During Monday’s briefing, Bowser encouraged individuals to watch the inauguration from home. She also asked D.C. residents to sign up for Inauguration Day text alerts on public safety, street closures, transit operations and more.
Biden’s transition and inaugural teams have been encouraging the public to not travel to Washington for the inauguration because of the pandemic, but there will still be many high-profile individuals present such as former Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush and soon-to-be former Vice President Mike Pence.