Norton to Host Meeting on Impact of Capitol Security on Residents

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D), pictured at the opening of the Fields at RFK June 8, 2019 with DC Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D). Photo: E. O'Gorek/CCN

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) is hosting a virtual town hall at 6 p.m. Feb. 11 to discuss the impact of security measures taken after the Jan. 6 attack on DC residents, public spaces, and security,

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D), representatives from the US Capitol Police and others are expected to speak.

All DC residents are invited to attend. RSVP by emailing [email protected] to get the meeting link.

Photo: A. Lightman

Four weeks after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Norton reintroduced her United States Commission on an Open Society with Security Act, which would establish a national commission of experts from a broad spectrum of disciplines to investigate how to maintain democratic traditions of openness and access while responding adequately to the security threats posed by terrorism.

The bill authorizes a 21-member commission, with the president designating nine members and the House and Senate leadership each designating six members, to investigate the balance between openness and security.

Courtesy Office of Eleanor Holmes Norton

Norton began working on the bill after Pennsylvania Avenue was closed and ugly security barriers first began to emerge in the District of Columbia following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  The events of 9/11 and the attack on the Capitol have made this bill even more urgent, her office said in a press release.

Norton reintroduced the bill after Acting US Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Yogananda Pittman issued a statement Jan. 28 recommending permanent fencing at the Capitol complex. The USCP declined the DC Delegate’s request to permit sledding at the Capitol during the recent snowstorm.

In the introductory statement to the bill, Norton said, “Security is not only about reducing lives lost and dollars cost. It is also about safeguarding the institutions, freedoms and values that anchor our country, not only for ourselves but for future generations.”

“The social compact between government and the people should not be the result of a series of hostage negotiations,” she added.

Norton, who lives in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, said security protocols can not be permitted to proliferate without the input of civilians as well as a thorough analysis of alternatives.

“As the home of our federal government, the District of Columbia’s residents have suffered a disproportionate infringement on public spaces, personal rights and freedoms in the name of security,” Norton said. “Barriers such as walls and fences are touted as essential security features while our citizens are left peering at their democracy from a distance.”

The DC delegate sent a letter to the USCP Board opposing permanent fencing.

She also called on the Capitol Police to allow sledding at the Capitol, a favorite sledding site for DC residents, during the recent snowstorm.  Norton annually insures a provision is included in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill toauthorizing sledding at the Capitol.

The introductory statement to Norton’s legislation can be viewed here.