News & Politics

“Stop the Steal” Protesters Could Be in DC by Early Saturday

The latest on the city's security efforts during a scary time

Fencing goes up around the US Capitol in preparation for Joe Biden's inauguration. Photograph by Evy Mages

A DC official said today that residents could expect to see “activity” from far-right demonstrators as soon as early Saturday. The city is recommending that Washingtonians limit travel this weekend and through the Inauguration, and that they should be prepared for potential curfews and business shutdowns. Residents can sign up for emergency alerts by texting INAUG2021 to 888-777; some emergency orders could come with little notice.

Matt Miller, who is in charge of the Secret Service’s Washington field office, said in a press conference today that enforcement agencies are following credible threats of violence in neighborhoods around the city. DC Police Chief Robert Contee III added his department would be providing a robust presence through the District, and would have the flexibility to respond to changing threats thanks to the additional federal enforcement agencies currently in DC.

There have already been extensive shutdowns and road closures announced throughout the city, and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said there’s a potential for more closures closer to the Inauguration. “Green zone” and “red zone” security perimeters are being established around the Capitol. Once those security zones are in place, any vehicle that enters one of the designated checkpoints will be searched for weapons. Contee said some residents who live near the Capitol may need to show ID to the National Guard to be allowed into their neighborhood, and that they should call DC police if they run into any issues.

Bowser said she’s not requiring hotels to close down for the week. She encouraged residents to report any suspicious activity by calling 202-727-9099 or going to iwatch.dc.org. She also recommended businesses download and print signs at inauguration.dc.gov that indicate weapons are not allowed on business premises.

Bowser said it’s unlikely the city would see the current levels of a National Guard presence in the weeks after the Inauguration, but a city official said the DC National Guard would likely remain near the Capitol through the end month. Saying she “doesn’t like fences,” Bowser acknowledged the necessity of the one now erected around the Capitol grounds, and said it would remain in place until an appropriate security replacement was put into place. There currently isn’t a recommendation from the city about when the fence should come down.

When asked whether she thought the city would “go back to normal” after the Inauguration, Bowser said residents need to be prepared for a return to a “new normal,” and that there needs to be a serious rethinking of how security works in DC. “We saw white extremists storm the Capitol building who were trained and organized, seemingly with the intent to capture the Vice President of the United States and perhaps harm other lawmakers,” Bowser said. “So we all have to think about a new posture…. While we are focused on January the 20th, we’re also focused on January 21st and every day thereafter in the nation’s capital…. Our partnership with the federal government has to change.”

 

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.