The large-scale protests in Washington following George Floyd’s death, and the militarized Trump administration response to them, may be over. But two months later, military-occupation aesthetics remain a dominant feature of the streetscape around the While House. And it will stay that way for another month or so.
Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House won’t reopen to the public until August 31, a United States Secret Service spokesperson tells Washingtonian. Access to Pennsylvania Avenue at 15th and 17th streets is currently only available to passholders and people with approved appointments.
The Secret Service spokesperson says the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza remains closed because of a project to replace the current White House fence, which “saw some delays,” the spokesperson says. The National Park Service announced the August 31 date back in June and also attributed it to the fence replacement project.
But the current barriers, which include bollards and several rows of “bicycle rack”-style fencing, appeared after the first night of racial-justice demonstrations occurred near the White House on May 29. At the time, the Secret Service described the closures in a press release as “an effort to maintain the necessary security measures surrounding the White House complex, while also allowing for peaceful demonstration” and said they would be removed by June 10. The Secret Service did not reply to a request to clarify when the barriers to demonstrators became integral to the fence replacement project.
Lafayette Square, too, remains behind a high fence, which Park Service spokesperson Katelyn Liming says was installed to “allow NPS staff to assess damage and to make repairs to statues and other park resources.” The Secret Service spokesperson says the anti-scale fencing and the closure of Lafayette Square will continue until July 31, and that the US Park Police and the National Park Service are “currently working on an extension for the anti-scale to remain in place with the ability to open/close Lafayette Park to the public.”
When Lafayette Square is open, the Secret Service spokesperson says, the 15th and 17th street entrances to Pennsylvania Avenue “will be open and permit the public to walk through the Park.”
Construction on the fence-replacement project began recently on the south side of the White House, Liming tells Washingtonian, which explains the white wooden fence that some people on social media incorrectly described as a Trump-built wall. In fact, it matches the fence that went up along Pennsylvania Avenue last July when the project, planning for which predates Trump, began construction.