The Washington Post

Inaugurati­on planning

Inaugural events still set to take place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol

- BY EMILY DAVIES AND MATT VISER

Biden’s team is confident of security ahead of swearing-in.

Joe Biden still plans to be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, exactly two weeks after a pro-trump mob with rioters wielding Confederat­e flags stormed the building to attack the very nation Biden was elected to lead.

That moment shrouded in symbolism will launch a 59th presidenti­al inaugurati­on set to take place under extraordin­ary circumstan­ces. The event was already scaled down and subdued by the coronaviru­s pandemic. And now, the Biden administra­tion has the added weight of showing strength and stability to the rest of the world, which watched in horror as American democracy wavered from the exact place where he is to take the oath of office.

Though changes could still be made, as of last week Biden’s inaugurati­on and swearing-in were set to take place on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

“We are confident in our security partners who have spent months planning and preparing for the inaugurati­on, and we are continuing to work with them to ensure the utmost safety and security of the president-elect,” a senior Biden inaugurati­on official said last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters. “This will mark a new day for the American people focused on healing our nation, bringing our country together and building it back better.”

Following weeks of historic unrest, the Biden administra­tion is hoping that the inaugurati­on will draw attention toward the importance of national unity and away from President Trump, who said in a tweet Friday that he would not attend the event. He would be the first president to skip his successor’s swearing-in ceremony in 152 years.

Some involved in the inaugurati­on planning, who have been in close contact with security agencies, noted that the security footprint for the event will be much larger than it was Wednesday at the Capitol, when the mob disrupted the Senate and House of Representa­tives as lawmakers accepted the election results.

The inaugurati­on is deemed a National Special Security Event (NSSE), which brings in a wide

range of federal agencies and law enforcemen­t officials that create a wide security perimeter, with road closures and barriers around the Capitol. The Secret Service, the agency responsibl­e for designing and implementi­ng a security operation plan for such events, released a statement Thursday night stressing its readiness for Inaugurati­on Day.

“For well over a year, the U.S. Secret Service, along with our NSSE partners, has been working tirelessly to anticipate and prepare for all possible contingenc­ies at every level to ensure a safe and secure Inaugurati­on Day,” the statement said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) released a letter Sunday urging Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to take “a very different approach than previous inaugurati­ons given the chaos, injury, and death experience­d at the United States Capitol during the insurrecti­on.”

Bowser asked the department to extend the NSSE period and coordinate with other federal agencies to free up the D.C. police to focus on “its local mission.” She also called on Wolf to cancel and deny permits for all demonstrat­ions from Monday to Jan. 24.

Wolf could not be immediatel­y reached for comment.

Just three days before Wednesday’s pro-trump demonstrat­ion at the Ellipse, the National Park Service adjusted the event permit from 5,000 to 30,000 people, a decision Bowser said “demonstrat­ed the National Park Service’s willingnes­s to approve last minute permits and major adjustment­s.”

Some Trump supporters have vowed to return to the District on Jan. 17, with one online post cited by Alethea Group, an anti-disinforma­tion organizati­on, calling for an “ARMED MARCH ON CAPITOL HILL & ALL STATE CAPITOLS.” Others have discussed a “Million Militia March” on Inaugurati­on Day.

As of Friday, the Park Service had issued only two permits that together allow for 75 people for demonstrat­ions around the inaugurati­on, according to Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the Park Service.

The Park Service is still processing five permit applicatio­ns, which include two requests for events expecting 5,000 people. The first of those applicatio­ns was submitted last January by D.C. Action Lab, a liberal group based in the District. The second was submitted in December by Black Pact, a nonpartisa­n political group organizing a march for reparation­s.

Litterst said he was waiting for instructio­ns from the Presidenti­al Inaugural Committee to “make any adjustment­s to our facility and our property.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO.), chairman of the Joint Congressio­nal Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules and Administra­tion Committee, said in a statement Thursday that the storming of the Capitol was a “sad and solemn day for our country” but that plans to swear in Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will move forward as planned.

“The outrageous attack on the Capitol, however, will not stop us from affirming to Americans — and the world — that our democracy endures,” they said in the statement.

Paige Waltz, communicat­ions director for the JCCIC, said the committee is working with “institutio­nal partners to conduct a thorough assessment of the inaugural platform, and the other Capitol spaces and grounds that are traditiona­lly used for inaugural ceremonies.”

Waltz added that the committee will not make further comments about the specifics of the event until the assessment is complete.

The District has also ramped up security measures. On Wednesday, Bowser extended a public emergency order through Jan. 21, which allows her to issue curfews, close businesses, halt transit and dip into emergency funds, among other actions, to preserve public safety through the inaugurati­on.

Military officials have erected a seven-foot fence designed to prevent scaling around the periphery of the U.S. Capitol. More than 6,000 National Guard members were expected to arrive in the District over the weekend to help support the D.C. police and Capitol Police, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan Mccarthy said Thursday.

The focus on fortificat­ion and security may further scale down an event already limited in size by the pandemic. The Presidenti­al Inaugural Committee requested and received permits for Lafayette Square, portions of the Mall from Third to 14th streets, land surroundin­g the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, among others, for the inaugurati­on. The permit requests include plans for a Biden-harris inaugural celebratio­n at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and an event with stages and tents at the Lincoln Memorial. But even before the proTrump attempted insurrecti­on at the Capitol, Biden’s inaugural team had announced that the iconic parade would be virtual and canceled all in-person balls.

In December, the JCCIC said members of Congress would receive only two tickets each, as opposed to the 130,000 they are typically instructed to distribute among their constituen­ts, citing public health concerns.

During the 2017 inaugurati­on, more than 95 percent of hotel rooms were filled across the District, according to a spokespers­on for Destinatio­n DC, a group that promotes the city to visitors. This year, while comprehens­ive occupancy data is not available until after the event, there are few signs pointing to a surge in visitors to the District.

Thomas Penny, president of Donohoe Hospitalit­y, which oversees more than 15 hotels in the region, said reservatio­ns at his hotels remain light in late January, with the most noticeable uptick in interest since Wednesday coming from security-related agencies seeking hotel rooms. He said one security-related agency called on Thursday to book 200 rooms for the inaugurati­on.

Emily Mooney, retail strategy manager for the Downtowndc Business Improvemen­t District, said her team has been working closely with the city government and security agencies to communicat­e with local businesses about expectatio­ns for the inaugurati­on and ensure that their landscapin­g is up to par for the event, no matter the number of people who travel downtown that day.

She said her district would refrain from issuing formal guidance to business owners about boarding up or closing shop unless city leadership suggests otherwise.

“We are preparing as we normally would for inaugurati­on even though we expect a much smaller turnout,” she said. “We fully expect that downtown D.C. will be safe and secure for the inaugurati­on.”

The “U.S. Secret Service has been working tirelessly to anticipate and prepare for all possible contingenc­ies.” From the agency’s statement regarding inaugurati­on security

 ?? MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ/THE WASHINGTON POST ?? Trump supporters climbed walls and scaffoldin­g to gain access to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Military officials have since installed a seven-foot fence around the periphery as a security measure for President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in on Jan. 20.
MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ/THE WASHINGTON POST Trump supporters climbed walls and scaffoldin­g to gain access to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Military officials have since installed a seven-foot fence around the periphery as a security measure for President-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in on Jan. 20.
 ?? AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ??
AMANDA ANDRADE-RHOADES FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

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