The US Capitol and its surrounding areas have been turned into a military zone ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made in wake of the Capitol Hill riots, which has shaken the country’s confidence and put scrutiny on law enforcement and safety in Washington. Five people died in the clash.
According to a report by The Hill, seven-foot barriers have been staged around the Capitol and its office buildings, and the Supreme Court.
As many as 25,000 National Guard troops will be deployed, and many of them will be armed. Troops have been photographed sleeping in nearly every corner of the Capitol — an inauguration preparation not seen since President Lincoln was set to take office amid the Civil War, the Hill said.
“At a time when we need a celebration as best can be had under COVID; at a time when we need to unify; at a time when we need to say to the world ‘We are a beacon of democracy and a shining city on a hill,’ our own hill, Capitol Hill is an armed fortress,” said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Centre.
“It is not like we have not faced anything like this, but we have not faced anything like this in the modern age, even since 9/11,” Barbara added.
Amid the threat of more pro-Trump rallies, the Secret Service is coordinating the largest security presence in DC history, The Hill said.
“There is a great deal of very concerning chatter, and it is what you do not know that we are preparing for. So I do not know if anyone has raised their hand to say, ‘We are coming. We will be there.’ But we are preparing as if they are,” Matthew Miller, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service Washington Field Office, said during a press conference with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Moreover, the US Marshalls will deploy 4,000 officers from across the country in DC. As the National Mall has been closed to prevent any large gathering, the areas now bear a deserted look.
“We are not asking people to come to DC for this is a major security threat, and we are working to mitigate those threats,” Robert Contee, Washington, DC, Police Chief, said last week.
Meanwhile, Airbnb has shut down its rental service within DC as it found that “numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building” have been making bookings through their website.
Bowser asserted that the entire country has to deal with how security apparatus at every level deals with a present threat to the US.
“I think that we are going to go back to a new normal…I think that our entire country has to deal with how our intelligence apparatus, security apparatus at every level, deal with a very real and present threat to our nation,” The Hill quoted Bowser as saying.
“We saw white extremists storm the Capitol Building who were trained and organised and seemingly with the intent to capture the vice president of the United States and perhaps harm other lawmakers. So, we all have to think about a new posture. We certainly have to think about a new posture in the city. So while we are focused on January the 20th, we are also focused on January the 21st and every day thereafter in the nation’s capital,” the DC Mayor added.