Washington: Ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Wednesday, the American capital over the weekend was literally converted into a garrison city because of the multiple reports of threats and armed violence that security agencies have been receiving over the past few weeks.
More than 25,000 National Guards have been deployed along with thousands of local police personnel and those from other security agencies. The area in and around Capitol Hill, a large part of Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House has been made out of bounds for the general public with eight-feet high iron barricades being erected.
US Marshals are deploying 4,000 officers to Washington DC. Major parts of the majestic National Mall, which during inauguration is usually thronged by thousands of people, have been closed off.
The entire city is on high-alert as authorities are receiving multiple reports of violent threats from various groups at the level of the incident that happened on January 6 — when hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed Capitol Hill, disrupting the constitutional process of certification of electoral college votes, forcing hundreds of lawmakers to take shelter at safe locations and vandalizing the historic building. At least five people died in the shameful incident.
In addition to converting downtown Washington DC into a fortress, security in and around State Capitols has also been put on high alert as security officials are gearing up to prevent a January 6-like event and ensure a peaceful transition of power.
“I think this will be an inauguration unlike any other. It was already destined to be, given COVID concerns and some of the limited seating and public access. But having our fellow Americans storm the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the government certainly warrants heightened security,” Mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, told NBC News in an interview.
“Our police department is working with our federal law enforcement partners and the United States Army also has a plan to pivot if we have any attacks in our neighbourhoods,” she said.
“We’ve never believed that so-called patriots would attempt to overthrow their government and kill police officers. That’s exactly what happened. So, I do think we have to take another posture in our city that is more domestic terrorist focused than external to our country and act accordingly. We don’t want to see fences. We definitely don’t want to see armed troops on our streets. But we do have to take a different posture,” Bowser said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its internal bulletins has warned of the potential for violence in Washington DC and at all 50 state Capitols. “We are concerned, certainly, about these threats in other places,” incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein told CNN in an interview.
“I do think the Secret Service and all their assets, the help they’re getting from the National Guard, will keep the inauguration itself safe and the official ceremonies in Washington safe. But these broader threats are concerning,” Klein said.
He said the president did incite the mob on January 6, and that’s “very, very disconcerting”.
“It’s an action that Congressman Raskin, I thought, was quite articulate about, the unprecedented nature of that action. We are obviously getting briefings from the outgoing administration about the efforts to try to secure state capitals, secure Washington, D.C., the National Capital Region,” he said.
“The president-elect is asked Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security adviser to President Obama, to be on point for him in the final days of the transition. We will have a team in place in the White House to monitor these actions going forward starting on 12:00 noon on January 20,” Klein said.
Meanwhile, a Kentucky man was arrested and charged Saturday in connection with the riots last week during which he joined a crowd of individuals who unlawfully entered the US Capitol and disrupted the conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.