Police brace for more extremist violence ahead of inauguration

US braces for Inauguration Day riots: Thousands of National Guardsmen stand watch at the Capitol and cities ramp up reinforcements amid growing fears of violence when Biden is sworn in

  • Washington, DC, is taking unprecedented steps to prevent violence around Inauguration Day on January 20 
  • More than 6,000 National Guardsmen were deployed to DC in the days after a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol grounds last Wednesday 
  • The Pentagon is considering sending up to 13,000 guardsmen to secure the city
  • The Department of Defense is aware of ‘further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day’ 
  • The Department of Homeland Security is working with Capitol Police to erect fences and checkpoints 
  • Federal and local authorities have faced criticism for failing to crack down on last week’s insurrection
  • DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said she is ‘extremely concerned’ about security on Inauguration Day as she called for a pre-emergency declaration 
  • Federal and state officials are working together in all 50 states to monitor online chatter about efforts to organize protests that could lead to further violence

With Joe Biden’s inauguration fast approaching in nine days, Washington, DC, and cities around the US are bracing for violent protests similar to those that left five people dead at the Capitol last week. 

More than 6,000 members of the National Guard have already been deployed to DC in the days after a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol grounds, with dozens of them breaking into the building on January 6 in a futile bid to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory . 

The Pentagon is now guarding against another storming of the Capitol, saying it will harden the DC’s defenses with as many as 13,000 guardsmen expected to secure the area on Inauguration Day on January 20. Prior to last week’s breach, officials had planned to deploy roughly 7,000 guardsmen.

The hardened-up security plans come after the Department of Defense said it was aware of ‘further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day’, Congressman Jason Crow (D – Colorado) said in a statement Sunday after speaking with Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy about security preparations. 

The Department of Homeland Security is working with the Defense Department, local DC authorities and inauguration officials to sharpen the law enforcement response in the coming days, including by erecting non-scalable fencing and security checkpoints around Capitol Hill. 

‘Now that it happened people will take it much more seriously,’ a senior DHS official told CNN in reference to last week’s violence. ‘Now, the planners, they are all going to take it much more seriously.’  

Federal and local authorities have faced fierce criticism for their perceived failure to crack down on Wednesday’s insurrection despite evidence that they knew it was coming. 

Hundreds of people might now face federal charges in the wake of last week’s Capitol breach, DC’s acting US attorney said in an interview with NPR over the weekend, saying a massive, 24-hour-a-day hunt was on to identify suspects and bring charges against them.

In the meantime,  DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said she is ‘extremely concerned’ about security on Inauguration Day in a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf over the weekend. She wrote that the event ‘will require a very different approach to previous inaugurations given the chaos, injury and death experienced at the US Capitol during the insurrection’.  

Federal and state officials are said to be working together in all 50 states to monitor online chatter about efforts to organize protests that could lead to further violence. 

With Joe Biden’s inauguration fast approaching in nine days, Washington, DC, and cities around the US are bracing for violent protests similar to that which left five people dead at the Capitol last week. Pictured: Members of the New York National Guard line up on the East Front of the Capitol on Monday morning 

More than 6,000 members of the National Guard have already been deployed to DC in the days after a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol grounds

The Pentagon is now considering sending as many as 13,000 guardsmen to secure the nation’s capital on Inauguration Day, January 20. Prior to the Capitol breach, officials had planned to deploy roughly 7,000 guardsmen

The Department of Homeland Security is working with the DoD, local DC authorities and inauguration officials to sharpen the law enforcement response in the coming days, including by erecting non-scalable fencing (pictured on Sunday) and security checkpoints around Capitol Hill

A protective fence is seen outside the US Supreme Court on Sunday as officials prepare for violence around Inauguration Day

Images of Trump supporters clambering up the walls of the Capitol – supposedly one of the most secure buildings in the United States – and smashing their way in with little resistance shocked the world on Wednesday

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to be sworn in on the west front of the US Capitol on January 20 before participating in a Pass in Review on the east front and then receiving a traditional escort to the White House by representatives from every branch of the military.  

Biden’s team has remained adamant that the inaugural events, which were paired down prior to the MAGA riots to avoid drawing large crowds rife for transmission of coronavirus, should go forward despite last Wednesday’s events.  

‘We are confident in our security partners who have spent months planning and preparing for the inauguration, and we are continuing to work with them to ensure the utmost safety and security of the president-elect,’ a senior Biden inauguration official said last week.

‘This will mark a new day for the American people focused on healing our nation, bringing our country together and building it back better.’ 

Trump on Saturday said he would not attend the inauguration, becoming the first president since 1869 to skip his successor’s swearing in. Vice President Mike Pence is still expected to be there. 

The inaugural committee has been making last-minute changes to security plans in light of what occurred last week. 

The event will undoubtedly look far different from previous years, when hundreds of thousands of people – and in some cases, millions of people – took to the streets to celebrate the start of a new administration. 

In a letter sent Sunday, Mayor Bowser asked the Trump administration to issue an emergency declaration for DC, citing intelligence suggesting that more violence is likely in the lead-up to the inauguration. 

In another letter to acting DHS Secretary Wolf on Saturday, Bowser called for the ‘National Special Security Event’ period – a designation which allows for greater law enforcement resources and cooperation – to be extended from January 11 to 24. The period was originally slated for January 19 to 21.    

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (pictured) said she is ‘extremely concerned’ about security on Inauguration Day in a letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf over the weekend 

Bowser also asked Wolf for the DHS to cooperate with other federal entities – including the Defense Department, Congress, the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice – to form a security perimeter fortified by troops around federal property. 

She said doing so would allow DC’s Metropolitan Police Department to focus on its normal civic duties. 

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, echoed Bowser’s concerns in a statement following his conversation with FBI Director Christopher Wray on Saturday.

‘The threat of violent extremist groups remains high and the next few weeks are critical in our democratic process with the upcoming inauguration at the U.S. Capitol to swear in President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,’ said Schumer, a New York Democrat.

‘Given that the same incendiary, dangerous rhetoric online that occurred before Jan. 6, which proved to be a warning of the insurrectionist attack, has only escalated since, I impressed upon Director Wray the vitalness of the FBI to work with other federal and state agencies to remain highly proactive and extremely vigilant to defend our democracy.’

Adam Schiff, chairman of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, on Monday said he expected law enforcement to ensure a safe event.

‘I think that there certainly may be violence, but I have to imagine, hope and pray, that this time the Capitol Police, the National Guard, will be prepared, will understand the risks,’ Schiff, a California Democrat, told CBS This Morning. 

Schiff said the threat of more violence in the last nine days of Trump’s term was a reason to swiftly remove the incumbent, who fired up thousands of loyalists in a speech before Wednesday’s rampage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced articles of impeachment on Monday morning. 

‘There’s certainly a danger that the president will continue to incite his followers to further violent activity, aimed at stopping the peaceful transition of power,’ Schiff said.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is shown in full above

Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli on Thursday insisted that the previous day’s Capitol breach would be a ‘one-time event’ and assured that Inauguration Day will be kept under control.  

‘You’re going to see immediate improvement, fully aggressive posture by the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice as well, because we accept violence from no one,’ Cuccinelli told Fox News.   

The DHS has faced criticism for failing to step in when Capitol Police requested back-up during last week’s insurrection. 

Cuccinelli suggested the agency didn’t get enough notice, saying that by the time the request came in, ‘it was just too close to when everything began to heat up’. 

But a former top DHS official dismissed that assertion, arguing that authorities were aware of the possibility of violence well in advance.  

‘Law enforcement was ill-prepared for an event the entire country knew was coming, and one that POTUS had been signaling for weeks,’ Brian Harrell, former DHS assistant secretary for infrastructure protection, told CNN, referencing the president. 

‘The normal “layers of security”, with each inner layer being tougher to breach, was nearly non-existent. It’s shocking, that in a post 9/11 world, we witnessed the “people’s house” be breached and ransacked with ease’, Harrell said.

Harrell said he expects much more substantial security will be implemented prior to the inauguration. He said the biggest threats to the event will be an active shooter scenario, vehicle ramming and the deliberate targeting of critical infrastructure. 

Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli on Thursday insisted that the previous day’s Capitol breach would be a ‘one time event’ and assured that Inauguration Day will be kept under control. Pictured: National Guardsmen gather on Monday 

Members of the New York National Guard organize on the East Front of the US Capitol on Monday morning

The National Guardsmen added masks to their usual uniforms in light of the coronavirus pandemic

Images of Trump supporters clambering up the walls of the Capitol – supposedly one of the most secure buildings in the United States – and smashing their way in with little resistance shocked the world on Wednesday. 

Five people, including one Capitol Police officer and four protesters, died as a result of the chaos. A Capitol Police officer also reportedly killed himself three days after the melee. More than 80 insurgents have already been arrested and at least 25 are facing domestic terrorism charges as the FBI continues searching for others. 

DC Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said in the Sunday interview with NPR that potentially ‘thousands’ of people could have information on alleged crimes committed during the Capitol break-in.  

‘I don’t think there’s any similar case in DOJ history that compares to that’, he said.

Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and the Sergeants-at-Arms of both the House and Senate, announced their resignations on Thursday, at the request of congressional leaders.  

Meanwhile, as Inauguration Day approaches, fears are mounting that the attack may have emboldened extremists to continue their campaign to block Biden’s path to the White House, despite the fact that he won the election.

In the days since the Capitol riots, calls for future armed protests have only grown among far-right circles, according to Twitter, which has monitored the chatter on its service. 

A former DHS official warned that the Capitol siege could serve as a ‘rallying cry’ for Trump supporters.   

‘We could start to see a lot of lives lost because of the moment that occurred on Wednesday, so very, very concerned about the cascading effects,’ the official told CNN. ‘It’s a very concerning moment.’

Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed similar concerns, saying that far-right extremists and white supremacists were emboldened by their perceived success last week. 

 ‘We fully expect that this violence could actually get worse before it gets better,’ Greenblatt said.   

Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 in a bid to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory

The protesters used flag poles and other objects to break doors and windows around the Capitol building  

Members of Congress are seen running for cover as protesters attempted to enter the House Chamber

Shortly before 2pm, the rioters descended on Capitol Hill while lawmakers were inside certifying the vote. Over the next two hours, the violence escalated. Some broke into politicians’ offices, tauntingly sat at their desks and left threatening notes. One of the protesters was shot dead by cops (bottom right) 

Wednesday’s unrest reverberated around the US as smaller protests were staged outside several state capitols. Local officials across the US fear that Inauguration Day could bring further violence to their communities as well.  

Washington State Gov Jay Inslee on Friday announced that he was mobilizing up to 750 National Guardsmen to secure the state’s capitol in Olympia at the start of the new legislative session on Monday.  

‘The actions we saw in both Washington, DC, and Olympia earlier this week were completely unacceptable and will not be repeated in our state again,’ Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to the dozens of people who occupied the state Capitol and breached the grounds of the governor’s mansion last Wednesday. 

‘In light of the most recent insurrection activity, the state cannot tolerate any actions that could result in harm, mayhem or interruption of function of democratic institutions,’ he said. 

In New Jersey, state homeland security officials are monitoring plans for protests on January 12 and 20, an official with knowledge of the situation told CNN.  

‘Some of the online rhetoric has called for protests at all 50 capitals plus DC,’ the official said. ‘FBI in particular has been continuing to put our threat assessments and we are at the state level as well.’  

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