D.C. and federal law enforcement agencies were on high alert Tuesday, ahead of President Biden’s first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Officials have set up heightened security measures amid expected protests and trucker convoys to avoid a repeat of the U.S. Capitol riot that occurred Jan. 6, 2021.
Officials said the fence along the perimeter of the Capitol grounds that was first erected following the attack has been reinstalled “out of an abundance of caution,” and 700 D.C. National Guard troops were on standby.
Tactical units and law enforcement officials have been stationed along streets near the Capitol, and roads leading to the building were set to close Tuesday afternoon.
“I want to be very clear that we are prepared to take swift law enforcement actions for violations of our local and federal laws, if necessary,” Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III told reporters Monday during a press conference.
The Secret Service was the lead agency for planning the State of the Union, which has been months in the making, officials told reporters.
The size, timing or plans of trucker convoys heading to Washington from different areas of the country were not clear early Tuesday. Many drivers appeared poised to arrive after the State of the Union and indicated they would remain on the Capital Beltway that encircles Washington rather than entering its city limits. At least one convoy canceled its plans due to a lack of participation.
Truckers have said their message is against Mr. Biden and pandemic mandates, which have largely been reduced or dropped altogether by states and cities.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser dropped the city’s mandates for indoor masks and vaccines on Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have significantly relaxed mask-wearing guidelines, prompting the White House and Capitol Hill to follow suit.
In addition to potential trucker convoys, at least one permit for a demonstration was approved for Tuesday on Washington Monument grounds, local officials said. It was reportedly expected to draw a few hundred participants rather than the several thousand that were originally slated to attend.
Officials do not yet know when the perimeter fence around the Capitol building will come down. Sean Gallagher, acting assistant chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, said Monday that the timing will be determined “soon after” Tuesday night’s event.