National Park Service to allow protests on Pennsylvania Ave. on Inauguration Day

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — A special agent with the U.S. Secret Service couldn’t confirm whether white supremacist groups plan to visit D.C. on Inauguration Day.

Matt Miller, who’s in charge of the Secret Service’s Washington Field Office, joined Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials to brief members of the press ahead of the 59th Presidential Inauguration. “We cannot allow a reoccurrence of the chaos and illegal activity that the United States and the world witnessed last week,” said Miller. 

“We want everybody to enjoy it and enjoy it right in their own states, in their own living rooms, and with their own families,” Bowser said. 

The mayor is asking the public to report suspicious activity at iwatchdc.org. She’s also requesting businesses download, print, and display signs that bar concealed firearms from the premises (and to call 911 if a patron doesn’t abide by the rules). 

The Secret Service has called on FEMA to assist in incident response and recovery. The FBI is leading intelligence and investigations. Miller says senior representatives from all participating agencies have created 28 subcommittees dedicated to a series of strategies. They’re also training, rehearsing, and completing exercises “to ensure immediate, well-coordinated, and effective response.” 

Over 20,000 members of the National Guard that have been deployed will be armed on Wednesday. Metropolitan Police Chief Rob Contee says the officers’ use of force policies will depend on the host agency they’re assigned to. National Guard members who are assigned to MPD, for example, will be directing traffic. 

Road closures will be in effect and garages will be restricted. WMATA has adjusted its Metro and bus service, which will be in effect between January 16 and 21. The DC Streetcar and the Capitol Hill Capital Bikeshare have also been suspended. 

General Manager and CEO of WMATA Paul Wiedefeld says to expect increased transit police presence. The agency has also called on outside help from officers in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, and Denver. 

Miller expects the road closures will have a considerable impact on D.C. residents and employees. The zone has been divided into 12 sub-zones and the Secret Service has reportedly worked with property managers and front office staff members to assist people who need to get in and out between now and January 21. 

Vehicles and trucks will be searched before they’re permitted to enter. FEMA’s Regional Administrator Maryann Tierney says incident management teams have been deployed to surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland. FEMA will be supplying food, water, and medical supplies, and ambulances will be on standby.

While last week’s riots have spurred an additional layer of safety for next week’s event, the Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks Jeff Reinbold says the National Park Service has been working on a “reimagined Inauguration” since November. Friday morning, the National Park Service approved the Secret Service’s request to close sections of the National Mall around Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House. 

Reinbold says the Park Service wants to meet First Amendment activity requests. Two groups have been granted permits and will be gathering at the Navy Memorial and at John Marshall Park. The Park Service is only permitting up to 100 people at each event. 

“They will be met by U.S. Park Police, escorted through magnetometers, and then taken to these areas so they can exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said. 

Bowser, a native of Washington, D.C., says the District will have to prepare for a new normal after January 20, by replacing the National Guard’s security in other ways. “We all have to think about a new posture. We certainly have to think about a new posture in the city,” she said. “So while we are focused on January the 20th, we’re also focused on January the 21st and every day thereafter in the nation’s capital.”

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