- The Washington Times - Monday, January 18, 2021

The National Park Service is allowing at least two demonstrations to take place within the security perimeter for the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The park service last week agreed to close “core” parts of the National Mall through Thursday following a request from the U.S. Secret Service, but it also pushed for demonstrations to be permitted.

“We are the premier First Amendment area in the country — in the world, probably — and we wanted to see if it was possible to do that and also meet their security needs,” Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said Friday during a briefing of local, state and federal law enforcement officials.

Of the applications submitted for demonstration permits, two groups will be allowed to host events on park service grounds within the security perimeter of unscalable fencing and National Guard troops, Mr. Reinbold said.

Permits were granted to DC Action Lab, which plans to protest the inauguration, and the ANSWER Coalition, an antiwar group dedicated to saving the environment, according to WJLA-TV.

“My understanding is … they are groups that are in D.C. quite a bit [that] have expressed First Amendment activities quite frequently throughout the District,” Mr. Reinbold said.

The park service superintendent did not specify which rally will be held where, but he said one will take place at U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza and the other at John Marshall Park. Both will be allowed up to 100 attendees.

“They will be met by U.S. Park Police, escorted through magnetometers, and then taken to these areas so that they can exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said.

The security perimeter includes street closures, restricted parking areas and security checkpoints. It encompasses roughly 4.6 square miles of the District’s 68 total square miles — which equates to less than 7% of the entire city, according to John Falcicchio, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

The unprecedented security makes a clear distinction from the preparations for a Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally that turned chaotic when demonstrators stormed the Capitol and disrupted Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results. At least five people died as a result of the siege, and numerous arrests have been made.

At least 25,000 armed National Guard troops are patrolling D.C. grounds as part of a multi-agency effort to ensure a safe transition of power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden on Wednesday.

The troops in the nation’s capital currently outnumber the those deployed in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq combined.

Metal fences and concrete barriers also have been erected throughout the security perimeter, and a top Secret Service official said officials are prepared for “any contingency that might arise” during the “vital, no-fail mission.”

“There is a great deal of very concerning chatter, and it’s what you don’t know that we are preparing for,” Matt Miller, special agent in charge of the Washington bureau of the Secret Service, said at a press conference.

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

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories