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Washington DC locks down prior to Biden’s inauguration and fear of armed protests

Image source: Monica Volpin / Pinterest

Ashraf Karil and Lolita C. Bardor

Washington (AP) — Throughout downtown Washington, the main sound of some blocks was the beep of a forklift that lowered more fences.

There seemed to be no cars, scooters or tourists on Wednesday, with occasional jogging and multiple construction workers working. The US Capitol, which proved such a soft target last week, was only visible through the tall black fence line.

Two blocks from the White House, a group of uniformed National Guard emerged from the tour bus and headed for the hotel when the blockade, which lasted until the inauguration on January 20, came down to Washington.

“Obviously, we’re in an unknown waters,” said Mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser.

A “violent rebellion” at the Houses of Parliament by supporters of President Donald Trump last week “influenced the way we work with federal partners in planning the 59th inauguration,” Bowser said Wednesday. Said to.

The FBI has warned that violent Trump supporters are planning armed protests in all 50 state capitals and Washington for the days leading up to Joe Biden’s inauguration in the presidential election.

Between the pandemic and security threats, Bowser has urged people not to come to the District of Columbia for their inauguration. And at Bowser’s request, the Declaration of the National Special Security Event was raised until January 13, she said, “introducing a completely different command and control structure” for security.

NSSE status is normal at presidential inauguration and other major events such as the International Summit and the Super Bowl. But so far, we rarely start a blockade before the event.

On Wednesday, a police car blocked a vast area of ​​downtown Washington, DC, causing immediate traffic congestion. Starting Wednesday, anyone within the inauguration boundaries could stop and ask questions, Kuppa said. Starting Friday, all parking lots in downtown restricted areas will be closed through the inauguration.

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Bowser is also under pressure to deny accommodation options to potentially violent protesters. A local Black Lives Matter affiliate and Shutdown DC issued a joint statement on Wednesday urging all downtown hotels to voluntarily close and pay staff. In addition to the threat of violence, activist groups say it is a threat to the health of hotel staff by generally refusing Trump supporters to wear face masks during a pandemic. Several downtown hotels, including one that has become a favorite hangout for extremist Proud Boys, have opted to avoid trouble by closing last week.

“The complete closure of the hotel in these six nights is the only way to ensure the safety of hotel workers, neighbors, vulnerable and uninhabited residents, the next government official, the House of Representatives, and our democracy. “The statement said. “If the hotels are not willing to close, please extend today’s emergency order to Mayor Bauser and close all hotels in the city.”

On Wednesday, Airbnb announced that it would cancel all bookings in the Washington Metro area. Bowser said he had been in regular contact with Airbnb officials since last week, but did not specifically request this step.

“We are aware of reports of armed militias and known hatred groups traveling to interfere with the inauguration yesterday afternoon,” the company said in a statement. “We are working to keep members of the hatred group out of the Airbnb community.”

On the ground, much of the most visible security is provided in the form of more than 15,000 National Guards from multiple states, some of which are armed.

According to people familiar with the matter, the number of guards who actually carry guns is limited. Some guards near the Houses of Parliament have long guns, while others have sidearms.

People near the crowd or fence line may not be armed, but those near the building may be armed. National Guard members operate under strict rules of engagement regarding the use of force. But, generally speaking, the military can use deadly forces to save the lives of others and themselves.

Officials also said that 15,000 guards have been activated, but more could be called in. DC Police Chief Robert Conty estimated that more than 20,000 National Guards would be active in the Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday, the day of the inauguration.

Authorities continue to consider requests from law enforcement agencies, and some believe that thousands more could be brought in. Defense and military authorities are asking the governor and deputy generals if there are people available to dispatch upon request.

So far, officials have said state leaders’ protection of their parliament building is a top priority, but there are still guards available to dispatch as needed.

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Source: Associated Press

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