Acting Chief Calls for Permanent Fencing Around Capitol

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DC residents look through the 7-foot fence at National Guards on the US Capitol Grounds, Jan. 17, 2020. Photo: Andrew Lightman

The Acting Chief of the US Capitol Police (USCP) has called for permanent fencing around the U.S. Capitol, according to a press release issued Jan. 28, as well as for supplemental forces to be stationed nearby.

The news was tweeted by reporter Tom Sherwood.

After Trump supporters attacked the Capitol Jan. 6, fencing went up around the Capitol Grounds Jan. 7. The fences surrounded the Libraries of Congress, running along Second Street from Constitution as far as D Street on the eastern side of the Capitol.

21,000 soldiers were on hand for the inauguration of President Joseph Biden on Jan. 21. While 15,000 were sent home in the following 10 days, 7,500 are expected to remain in the district until March 31, in anticipation of possible violence linked to the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

While a ‘green zone’ extended as far as Sixth Street in the days leading up to inauguration, many residents living inside the secure area were obligated to show identification to return home.

In a release dated Jan. 28, USCP Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman said that in light of the events of Jan. 6, “vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol.”

Barbed wire tops fencing on Second Street NE.

Pittman’s release noted that a 2006 security assessment specificaly recommended installation of a permanent perimeter fence around the Capitol.

At a closed-door meeting with the Congressional House Appropriations Committee, Pittman apologized for the failure of the USCP to prepare for the events of Jan. 6.

Pittman acknowledged to Congress that the force knew that right-wing militant groups were planning to attend, and that many attendees would be armed.

“We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target,” Fox 5 reported Pittman as saying.

Despite acknowledging the failure of personnel, the Chief said that after becoming Acting Chief she directed staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol Complex.

Many neighbors were outraged at the news. “They literally knew this was going to happen days before and did nothing,” tweeted one neighbor. “They even admitted it. It’s their own damn fault and DC residents are suffering the consequences.”

Another was more expressive.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told reporters after the Jan. 22 hearing that the perimeter around the Capitol complex will likely expand outward, although he did not comment on permanent fencing.

“Again, it’s going to be some time before any major decision is made on that,” Ryan said. “But there’s probably a very good chance that the perimeter of the Capitol is moved outward. I would assume it would be outside of the office buildings.”

There is little that the District can do to oppose these measures. The Capitol Grounds are under federal jurisdiction. However, Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) wrote a letter to Acting Chief Pittman Jan. 26. Agreeing that the security of the Capitol is of ‘Utmost importance,” Allen reminded Pittman it is also part of a community and that neighbors “do not want to be walled off behind barbed wire from treasured public spaces.”

“Temporary measures have a way of becoming permanent in this town,” Allen said.

The Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM) and the Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D) did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

With reporting by Sarah Payne.