In the wake of the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists, heightened security concerns surrounding Joe Biden’s inauguration have visibly transformed Washington, D.C. into something like a war zone. Ahead of the president-elect’s swearing-in ceremony, an event already dramatically reshaped by the pandemic, officials have established a “green zone” in downtown Washington and the Pentagon has authorized up to 25,000 Guardsmen to protect for the inauguration amid new warnings of violence, CNN reports.
The fortified capital ahead of the inauguration is an unbelievable sight in America, where a peaceful transfer of power is the tradition. Of course, President Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition last September, as he was laying the groundwork to reject the presidential election results. (Axios revealed fresh details Saturday about Trump’s “premeditated lie.”) For the past two months, Trump and his allies have tried undermining the results through falsehoods about widespread voter fraud and various conspiracy theories, an effort that ultimately failed to overturn Biden’s decisive win but emboldened angry and armed supporters to attack the Capitol in protest of what they believed, against all evidence, to be a stolen election. Domestic extremists “pose the most likely threat” to the inauguration, according to a joint threat assessment from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, a bulletin that warned of possible violence, including the targeting of government buildings and public officials, in the lead-up to and on the day of Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, the New York Times reports.
Such security concerns led Biden’s team to postpone a rehearsal for his inauguration, which was pushed back a day to Monday due to “online chatter” around Sunday, acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Friday, telling CNN there were “no specific credible threats” but “the decision was made to delay a day and leave the Secret Service in a position, and the whole team across the Washington metro area, to be prepared to respond on that day if needed.”
Multiple bridges, subway stations, and bus routes will be closed throughout the inauguration. The National Mall will also be closed to the general public on Inauguration Day, the National Park Service announced Friday, saying in a statement that two small areas adjacent to the park will remain open for inaugural events, and there will be areas reserved for peaceful demonstration. However, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser has urged people to stay home, particularly in light of the Capitol attack, which laid bare threats of “domestic white extremism” that were not taken “seriously enough,” she said Sunday, during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We never believed that so-called patriots would attempt to overthrow their government and kill police officers, but that’s exactly what happened,” Bowser told host Chuck Todd, adding: “We don’t want to see fences, we definitely don’t want to see armed troops on our streets, but we do have to take a different posture.”
Lawmakers have called on travel companies to help with “identifying and preventing the ongoing and extreme threat of further violent attacks in Washington, DC, and elsewhere, over the coming days,” a letter sent by the House Oversight Committee to more than two dozen operators of bus lines, rental car companies, and hotels on Thursday said, according to CNN. Officials are also tightening airport security in an effort to protect against potential violence. The Transportation Security Administration is increasing the number of federal marshals on flights and explosive-detection dogs at airports, a move that comes as commercial airports have tracked an increase in passengers checking weapons en route to airports in the Washington area, the Times reports.
Increased threats of potential violence leading up to Inauguration Day extend beyond Washington, as the FBI has reportedly warned of planned “armed protests” in all 50 states, prompting many state officials to beef up security and activate National Guard troops in their capital cities. Governors in Maryland, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia have declared states of emergency; Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah are closing their Capitol grounds completely, while others, such as Florida and Oklahoma, told staff to work from home this weekend. In Michigan, where the first-floor windows of the Capitol have been boarded up, the state’s Senate and House canceled legislative sessions due to “credible threats,” CNN reports. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom’s reported preparedness measures include the authorized deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops, as well as a six-foot, covered chain-link fence surrounding the state’s Capitol grounds in Sacramento.
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