Mayor and D.C. Officials Reassure DC Residents on Inauguration Security Precautions
By January 18, 2021 0 1329•
On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 20, the 59th U.S. presidential inauguration is scheduled to take place outside the West Front of the U.S. Capitol building — site of a riotous insurrection that left 5 people dead on Wednesday, Jan. 6 — as executive power under the Constitution is slated to transfer to President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-President Kamala D. Harris, precisely at noon.
Many D.C. residents are concerned about the possibility of renewed terror in the nation’s capital as right-wing and White nationalist supporters of President Trump — perhaps aggrieved by Congress’s second impeachment of the 45th president on Jan. 13 on charges of “inciting insurrection” — return to protest the transfer of executive power this week. FBI Director, Christopher A. Wray, recently told reporters that “an extensive amount of ‘concerning online chatter’” about possible disruptions to the Inauguration was being monitored.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and city officials have energetically reassured District residents, however, that safety and security will be their foremost priorities during the week of the inauguration.
In a Jan. 15 letter to Washingtonians, Mayor Bowser encouraged D.C. residents and Americans nationwide to “stay home and participate entirely virtually.” The National Mall will be sealed off through Jan. 21. Metro will be “closing 13 train stations and detouring 26 bus routes.” Until further notice, streetcar service and Capital Bikeshare near the Capitol will be suspended. In recent press conferences, she and federal officials announced that secure perimeters near the Capitol would be established — the outer Green Zone with deployed National Guard troops to monitor traffic flow and the “hardened” inner Red Zone where IDs will be checked and vehicles will be swept for explosives.
On CBS’s “60 Minutes” program last night, Mayor Bowser and Acting Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief, Robert Contee, met with reporter Scott Pelley, expressing confidence that the inauguration will proceed securely as planned and that coordination between District and federal officials and agencies as well as a stepped-up police presence will help keep D.C. residents safe.
“This week, Washington is an armed camp. With the president impeached for inciting insurrection, tens of thousands of troops are on route to the Capitol to join thousands of police officers and federal agents — all preparing to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies,” Pelley began. “Will the president be inaugurated at noon on Wednesday?”
“Absolutely,” Bowser responded. “This nation will have its 46th president. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take the oath of office right here” she said, pointing toward the site at the Capitol where the oaths will be sworn.
Following the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol, Mayor Bowser requested a reassessment of security by the federal government which is responsible for the Inauguration itself. “They’re adding reinforcements and imposing a larger, earlier lockdown around the White House, Capitol and National Mall. An exclusion zone of seven-foot fences and military roadblocks was rushed in six days sooner than planned,” Pelley said.
“What we know is that not only is the Inauguration itself a target for these extremists who stormed these Capitol steps and put 535 members of Congress — and the transition of power for our country — in danger. We know that they’re planning events leading up to it. So, it was very important that we have a posture that discouraged people from coming, all people, but also discouraged these extremist groups from thinking they could come back,” Bowser said, adding that she was “heartened to see the Joint Chiefs of Staff issue a statement that the U.S. Army would be there to support the mission of a smooth transition of power.”
At the MPD Command Center, Pelley met with Acting Police Chief Contee to discuss safety and security for residents of the District during the Inauguration. “While the world is focused on the podium at the Capitol,” Pelley said, “Contee will still have to cover his city of more than 700,000 people.” Contee was asked what forces the MPD will “have deployed on Inauguration Day?” “Every available resource,” Contee responded. “That’s our entire department… We’ll have support of law enforcement officers from all across our country– to the tune of about 2,500 that will be here to support us in this effort.” It will be the “tightest security that I have ever seen,” Contee reassured.
Contee credits Bowser with garnering additional federal funding for the inauguration as well as gaining a National Security Special Event (NSSE) designation for the event– allowing it to be managed by the Secret Service– and giving the MPD room to focus its resources on protection for D.C. residents. These moves, Contee said, essentially “free up resources for the MPD so we can do our job of ensuring safe communities in the District… The overall responsibility for this security event falls on the shoulders of the U.S. Secret Service, but the MPD is very much a close ally in terms of making those things happen to ensure we have safe communities here in the District of Columbia.” MPD Officers will be on 12-hour shifts.
Former President of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and City Councilmember Vincent Orange is reassured that security will be stepped up to protect the seat of the District government. “I was concerned as to whether or not our Wilson building was going to be protected,” he said, “but, it appears that we’re going to have a strong perimeter and we’re going to be having 20,000 National Guardsmen in town.”
With the imposition of fenced-off security zones near the Capitol, violent agitators might spread out and cause havoc in D.C.’s neighborhoods, Orange fears. His advice to D.C. residents during the Inauguration is to “shelter in place, be very observant, make sure you can account for your family members and, at this point, take the Mayor’s words to heart: to stay away from all the activities… until we can get a sense of calmness back into our nation’s capital and into our neighborhoods.”
In Ward 2, serving Georgetown, Councilmember Brooke Pinto wrote to her constituents: “I am honored to serve you during this significant moment in our nation’s history. On Wednesday, I will be proudly watching from home as President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and first Black and Indian American to hold this position, take the Oath of Office. I ask that you join me in watching the Inauguration virtually and avoid the downtown area due to the ongoing public health emergency and security concerns.”
In an earlier press release, Pinto encouraged residents to stay informed about security procedures surrounding the Inauguration by texting: INAUG2021 to 888-777 or visiting <Inauguration.dc.gov> to receive the latest information.” Signs for businesses to promote safety can also be printed from the site.