By Associated Press - Thursday, March 18, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Security fencing around the Washington Capitol will remain in place, but state officials announced Thursday that the public will now be allowed to walk around within the perimeter.

The state’s Department of Enterprise Services said that while the area remains closed to vehicles, pedestrian access gates have been added at several locations, and the public can access the previously closed off areas from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

This includes the Capitol steps that had previously been the usual staging area for protests or rallies. The Capitol building is still closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers are in the midst of a mostly remote 105-day legislative session.

The fencing was installed Jan. 8, two days after a group of supporters of former President Donald Trump and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp breached a gate outside the governor’s mansion and made it to the porch and front yard. That breach came hours after the siege of the nation’s Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Threats by groups to try and occupy the state Capitol for the Jan. 11 start of the session never materialized but lawmakers and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had said they would follow the advice of the Washington State Patrol on ongoing security concerns.

“There are still many unknowns and substantial uncertainty as to how our security environment will continue to evolve, but we are hopeful that threat levels or illegal activity do not affect this restored pedestrian access in the days and weeks ahead,” Department of Enterprise Services Director Chris Liu said in a written statement.

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