DC Council Unites to Oppose Loss of Access to Capitol Grounds

Allen Pens Separate Letter Asking for DC Rep on USCP Board

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Barbed wire tops fencing on Second Street NE.

DC Council does not agree on everything, but they do agree on this: there should not be a permanent fence around the US Capitol.

On Feb. 23, all 13 members of the DC Council signed a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The letter stated Council’s opposition to any permanent expansion of the security permiter surrounding the Capitol Complex, or to the loss of public access to the Capitol Grounds or adjacent space.

Reiterating their support for secuirty in the Capitol Complex, the letter criticizes the current approach.

“[W]ith all due respect, it was not the lack of a permanent fence or a hardened perimeter that led to the breach of the Capitol by armed insurrectionists,” the letter reads. “It was overlooking or dismissing the widely known planning by extremist groups that took place out in the open in the months and days leading up to January 6, and the failure of our nation’s intelligence apparatus to take seriously white supremacist violence, much of which has already been acknowledged in ongoing congressional oversight.

The letter from DC Council reminded the Congressional representatives that the fence does not exist in a vaccum, impacting not only the emergency operations of the District but also the legislative operations. That is in addition to the impact on the neighbors residing nearby.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) wrote a separate letter addressed to District Delegate Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. It it, the Chairperson of the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety asked Norton to consider legislation to reform the Capitol Police Board, which has oversight over the US Capitol Police, to include a representative from the District.

Currently, the Board consists of a Sergeant at Arms for each of the HOuse of Representatives and the Senate, the Architect of the Capitol and the Chief of the USCP. The Chief serves in a non-voting capacity.

Allen’s letter points out that not only did the decisions of the Board on Jan. 6 significantly affect residents living nearby, the actions of USCP have a regular impact on District residents. Further, Allen argued, District representation might improve coordination between the District and Federal authorities.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D) introduced a “No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act” on Feb. 11. During a meeting with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C Feb. 9, Norton told Commissioners that she believed she had the support to pass the Bill in the House. It would still need to be passed by the Senate.