HOMELAND SECURITY — Whether the violent storming of the Capitol on January 6 justifies the massive, militarized security lockdown for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is yet to be seen, but the optics don’t look good.
I have been on the streets of Washington, D.C. since Saturday supporting several foreign TV news crews, and these precautions far surpass even those for the heavily fortified Trump Inauguration in 2017. Militarized security is an understatement.
Most Democrat partisans and D.C. residents likely didn’t attend the 2017 Trump inaugural and don’t know how challenging that event’s security was. Their closest memory of an inaugural is Obama’s in 2013. And the Obama ‘love fests’ were far different events.
I heard several obvious partisans walking the streets say how they had never seen anything like this. And it is true. Trump’s was similar in some ways and worse in others. But nothing in terms of security like this.
Many of the current precautions such as high, unscalable metal fencing, sand-laden dump trucks and buses as vehicle barriers, and numerous fortified checkpoints — perhaps not as prevalent for Obama’s inaugural — were seen at the 2017 Trump event.
Recall that in 2017 Trump was being called a Russian agent, his election was being delegitimized as having been won by Russia and he was receiving a heightened number of death threats after his election. Mobs of angry protesters swarmed to downtown D.C. to condemn Trump’s inauguration and security was expanded beyond that for Obama.
I was present at the 2017 event and at the time I likened the scene in D.C. to East Berlin during the Cold War. It was unreal.
The barriers were everywhere near the White House and Capitol in 2017, and entry to Pennsylvania Avenue was highly controlled via checkpoints.
However, the anti-Trump mobs basically owned the streets directly outside the limited secured perimeter — and roamed at will.
Trump supporters were assaulted and bullied leaving their hotels. Harassed and attacked as they tried to go through security checkpoints. Restaurants and other shops were closed out of fear of rioting and violence by anti-Trump protesters.
What is different now is a significant expansion of the security perimeter North and South of the National Mall, Capitol and White House. Fortifications, fencing and restricted ‘no-go’ areas extend many blocks further in most directions.
Several blocks around the White House are totally locked down. The area is bordered by K Street NW, 14th Street NW, Constitution Avenue NW and 19th Street NW. Entering this area requires security screening. D.C. Metro is also shuttering stations in the city’s core and near the Mall.
Many streets downtown have been closed and these closures will continue through Thursday and are subject to change at the discretion of the Secret Service.
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It is highly doubtful any anti-Biden protests similar to the anti-Trump protests during the 2017 Trump inaugural will be seen this week. For that matter, it is doubtful any pro-Biden supporters will be seen much either.
But the most significant difference is the massive National Guard presence. Previously used in the hundreds in an unarmed role mostly to man intersections, and patrol Metro stations, they are now out in force. Upwards of 20,000, mostly armed, National Guard troops have set up a solid perimeter inside the fence line at the Capitol.
Armed Guard troops are also manning checkpoints on the outer security perimeter many blocks away from the core security zone around Pennsylvania Avenue. This is something not seen in recent memory.
Of course, just six months ago the limited use of unarmed National Guard troops by President Trump to quell the violent rioting, looting and burning around the White House I described here was widely condemned. And concerns were raised everywhere about Trump “militarizing” the response to the riots.
With 20,000 armed troops now in DC — it appears that this issue is no longer a concern.