With several truck convoys reportedly headed to the District, officials are on high alert although they did not identify any specific security threats.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and officials spoke about the District’s preparation for the upcoming State of the Union address that will take place on March 1.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know,” DC Police Chief Robert Contee said, “and we want to be in a posture of preparedness here in Washington, DC.” Contee said the security posture would be in place as long as necessary.
At this time, one permit has been issued by the US Park Police for first amendment demonstration, said USPP Chief Smith. The demonstration is scheduled to take place on March 1.
AP reported Friday that in light of the convoy and demonstrations, the Pentagon has approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to the District. Police and guard vehicles are positioned on highways at entrances to the District.
“Protests and demonstrations are not new to the people of Washington D.C.,” DC Police Chief Robert Contee said.
“I want to be very clear that we are prepared to take swift law enforcement actions for validation about local and federal laws if necessary.”
Capitol Fencing and Protests
The most significant fencing since the Jan. 6 insurrection has been placed around the Capitol. US Capitol Police (USCP) Acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher said the fencing is temporary and was put up in conjunction with a request from the Secret Service.
“We are very confident in the security plan that is put forth for the State of the Union with all the partners standing up here and the other partners that are not able to be here today,” Gallagher said. “Once we get through the State of the Union and have a successful event, a decision will be made soon after about the removal of the fence.”
Bowser said while she did not directly weigh in on the decision to put the fence up again, she supports it.
“If the United States Capitol Police feel like it’s necessary for the State of the Union, then I support it,” Bowser said.
State of the Union Preparations
Bowser said she has activated the emergency operations center with the goal of prioritizing the safety and security of the city and limiting disruptions to residents and businesses in the District. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has increased their staffing and security posture across the city and continues working with federal partners to ensure a smooth joint session of Congress tomorrow evening.
Contee encouraged all residents and visitors to utilize MPD’s social media for the most up to date information regarding road closures and traffic disruptions. He also encouraged residents to be aware of alternate transportation options in the event of unexpected road closures.
Stohler also spoke about the increased security levels in the District and emphasized their goal of a safe event and minimal disruption to residents and visitors in the District.
“The Secret Service Capitol Police working with many other law enforcement and public safety partners will make every effort to anticipate and minimize disruptions to the residents and visitors of the city throughout this event and beyond,” Stohler said. “Although we cannot discuss the means and methods in which we will do this, I assure you that we have a very robust security plan, and we’re very, very confident.”
Stohler emphasized that despite the increased security posture, the focus of tomorrow should be on the democratic process taking place, not the security measures.
“The focus here shouldn’t be on security specifically, although that’s certainly a factor and should be on the democratic process and the successful presentation of the State of the Union,” Stohler said.
Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.