Today, approximately nine Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) cruisers and at least four members of the National Guard stood in Lincoln Park enforcing social distancing protocol, a striking reminder of the serious nature of the District government’s order for residents to stay at home.
At the same time, they were permitting use of the park. Individuals and families were using the park grounds, dispersed throughout the area at distance from one another.
A representative from the Executive Office of the Mayor said that the MPD has been instructed to work with National Guard when police require additional assistence, for instance in areas where crowds are gathering. “We don’t have the Naitonal Guard assigned to a specific task,” she said. “They are helping with areas where we need additional assistance,” which could include anywhere from parks and fresh food markets to the UMC testing site.
The representative said it was unclear why the National Guard was present in the park, unless people were congregating and had to be dispersed.
Police had been reminding residents to practice social distancing via loudspeaker. One such reminder was captured March 31 by a resident and shared on Twitter:
Police mandating #SocialDistancing via a drive through loudspeaker announcement in Lincoln Park, Capitol Hill, Washington DC. #WashingtonDC #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/kYF1rXGB4O
— Lauryn Gutierrez (@GutzyLo) March 30, 2020
Capitol Hill residents observed large numbers of people in the park throughout the week, and had expressed concern about their social distancing. Others pointed out that many residents lack outdoor space, and that narrow sidewalks do not permit for social distancing, leaving residents with few alternatives.
The Hill Rag has reached out to MPD and National Parks Service for clarification. This is an updating story.