- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Armed soldiers patrolled Wednesday around the U.S. Capitol, where a 7-foot-high metal fence encircles the grounds — just some of the heightened security measures implemented for next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden.

Roads crossing the National Mall have been closed, barriers have been erected around certain areas of downtown Washington and as many as 20,000 National Guard troops will be deployed to ensure security for next Wednesday’s main event.

Ella McBride, who lives nearby, said she still worries about safety on Inauguration Day despite the increased security.

“The dog and I walk to the Capitol just about every day — that day I won’t,” said Ms. McBride, whose husband is a retired FBI official who had served in the Navy.

“My husband was planning to walk there, but now, little by little, he’s getting a little more hesitant saying ‘No, I don’t think we’ll go out that day,” she said. “So we’ll just stay right by the house.”

At least 6,200 National Guardsmen from the District and six nearby states have been deployed to Washington, and 10,000 are expected to be on D.C. streets by Saturday. The Army has authorized them to carry weapons in the city.

“We can expect to see somewhere upwards beyond 20,000 members of the National Guard that will be here in the footprint of the District of Columbia,” Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said Wednesday.

Photos posted on social media showed some Guardsmen cradling their weapons while bivouacking inside the Capitol on Wednesday, as the House of Representatives debated and voted to impeach President Trump.

Mahmoud Ahmed said the photos made him feel safe.

“I’ve lived in D.C. for four years now, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mr. Ahmed said. “I feel safe — I don’t feel as safe as I did before all this, right? I think that’s normal but, yeah, I’m just going to be smart about when I’m taking the dog out and just different things [like that].”

The military presence and other security features provide a stark contrast to last week’s preparations for a pro-Trump rally that turned chaotic when demonstrators stormed the Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding. At least five people died as a result of the insurrection, and law enforcement has arrested dozens of suspects.

On Wednesday, residents and visitors snapped photos and took videos of the fence and armed guards, as TV journalists reported live from the scene. At times, patrolmen shooed away those who got too close to the fence.

Cars clogged roadways throughout the downtown area, where Metropolitan Police Department vehicles blocked several streets and “No parking” signs clung to lamp posts.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that people may be stopped and questioned by security personnel before entering the downtown security perimeter, which will be in place through Jan. 21.

“Individuals entering the perimeter may be subject to screening and asked to describe what their essential business is,” Miss Bowser said during a press conference, adding that people should avoid the downtown area.

The perimeter surrounds the Capitol, the White House, the National Mall and other “key” parts of the city, the mayor said.

The Washington Monument has been closed, and a non-scalable fence has also been erected around the U.S. Supreme Court.

Parking garages in the restricted areas will be blocked Friday through Jan. 21, the mayor said.

Meanwhile, Metro said that 13 subway stations within the security perimeter will be closed Friday through Jan. 21. Trains will run on a Saturday schedule, and 26 bus routes will be detoured.

The announcements come the same day the citywide National Special Security Event begins, which directs law enforcement agencies to increase surveillance and protection of government buildings and historic monuments.

Miss Bowser said Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt has not yet said whether he will cancel and block public gathering requests in the city until the transition of power is complete.

“The secretary is very concerned about his ability to approve or disapprove certain permits,” she said.

Also on Wednesday, Airbnb announced that it is canceling and blocking all reservations in the D.C. metropolitan area during inauguration week.

The decision came in response to local, state and federal officials asking people to avoid traveling to the District for the inauguration following the insurrection last week that left five people dead.

The FBI has warned of armed protests in Washington and state capitals nationwide in the days leading up to and on Inauguration Day.

Mr. Trump has issued an emergency declaration in the District that lasts until Jan. 24.
People can sign up to receive inauguration-related updates by texting “INAUG2021” to 888-777.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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