Following the deadly storming of the US Capitol by pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists, heightened security concerns surrounding President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration have visibly transformed Washington, DC into something like a war zone.
Ahead of Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, US officials established a “green zone” in downtown Washington and the Pentagon authorized up to 25,000 Guardsmen to protect for the inauguration amid new warnings of violence, CNN reported.
The fortified capital ahead of the inauguration is an unbelievable sight in America, where they boast of a peaceful transfer of power tradition.
The heightened concerns come as Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition last September, as he was laying the groundwork to reject the presidential election results.
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.
Meanwhile, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, said Sunday that the essential question following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol is how seriously the country will take threats of “domestic white extremism.”
The deadly riot also laid bare that the country did not take the threat of domestic terrorism “seriously enough,” Bowser said 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,” she said.
The mayor added that the focus must shift to domestic terrorism, following the attack that left five killed, including a US Capitol police officer.
“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,” she said in response to a question from host Chuck Todd about how long residents of the nation’s capital will live with new measures to enhance security.
Relatively, officials in state capitals are prepared for protests and potential violence.
Armed men and supporters of Trump gathered at the Texas Capitol in Austin as law enforcement officials closely watched their movements. In St. Paul, hundreds of officers surrounded the Minnesota Capitol building, far outnumbering a group of about 50 pro-Trump protesters. A small number of demonstrators also gathered in Illinois and Nevada.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned that domestic extremists “pose the most likely threat” to the inauguration and 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.
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.
Increased threats of potential violence leading up to Inauguration Day extend beyond Washington, as the FBI 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 reported. 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.