National Guard troops sent in to protect and help fortify Washington DC are now sleeping on the stone floor of the US Capitol as security intensifies and the capital goes into lockdown a week out from Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Hundreds of National Guard members, who were deployed to DC in the wake of last week’s MAGA mob riots, were spotted cradling their rifles and riot gear as they slept on the floor of the Capitol on Wednesday morning.
Lawmakers entering the building walked by the sleeping troops as they lined the hallways just hours before the House of Representatives started debating impeaching President Trump for a second time.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed some of the troops outside the Capitol building earlier to thank them for their service. It is believed to be the first time troops have set up camp in the Capitol since the Civil War.
The National Guard has now been authorized to send a total of 20,000 troops to Washington to help safeguard the capital ahead of Biden’s inauguration. There are already 6,200 troops on the ground in DC and at least 10,000 will be in place by Saturday.
The troops, thousands of other law enforcement officers and layers of eight-foot, anti-climb steel fencing are among the reinforcements being used to fortify DC a week out from the inauguration in a bid to protect the capital from any violence.
The FBI has already warned of armed protests being planned in Washington and all 50 state capitals in the run-up to the inauguration, including three separate plots to attack the Capitol.
Security experts have said chatter among extremists and Trump supporters on social media about threatening violence in DC and other cities has surged in recent days.
Hundreds of National Guard troops were sleeping on the stone floor of the US Capitol on Wednesday morning as security in Washington intensified a week out from Joe Biden’s inauguration
Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed some of the troops outside the Capitol building earlier to thank them for their service
Pelosi later tweeted: ‘Even during this dark time in the history of America, we find reasons for hope. It was my privilege today to personally thank members of the National Guard who are working protect our nation’s Capitol. Thank you for your commitment to our American democracy’
Majority Whip James Clyburn walks past members of the National Guard trying to get some sleep inside the US Capitol on Wednesday morning
The troops could be seen spreading out inside the Rotunda of the US Capitol on Wednesday morning
Members of the National Guard spread out in the Capitol on Wednesday with some using the base of statues as head rests
On Wednesday, Acting US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen warned potential domestic terrorists against further attacks.
‘I want to send a clear message to anyone contemplating violence, threats of violence or other criminal conduct: We will have no tolerance whatsoever for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power… including attempts to forcefully occupy government buildings,’ Rosen said. ‘There will be no excuse for violence, vandalism or any other form of lawlessness.’
The Secret Service will take control of inauguration security preparations from today and road closures are now in effect across parts the downtown Washington DC area until after the inauguration.
The increased security measures are being implemented days earlier than scheduled as a direct result of last week’s deadly Capitol siege at the hands of Trump-supporting rioters.
Restricted areas have already been established around the White House and Capitol grounds with extra security screenings in place for those trying to get access.
Eight-foot steel fences that are nonscalable have already been erected around the White House, Capitol and other federal buildings, including the Supreme Court.
Armed National Guard troops and other law enforcement have been patrolling these areas all week.
Road closures surrounding the White House and Capitol came into effect late Tuesday and will remain in place until after the inauguration.
Access to all roads, parking garages and loading docks surrounding the White House will be banned from Thursday morning. Authorities say that any vehicle within that restricted area will be stuck there until after the inauguration. The restrictions apply to both residential and commercial buildings.
Further perimeters and additional road closures are expected in the coming days.
The Secret Service will take control of inauguration security preparations from today and road closures are now in effect across parts the downtown Washington DC area until after the inauguration. Further perimeters and additional road closures are expected in the coming days. Access to all roads, parking garages and loading docks – including residential and commercial building – in the White House perimeter will be banned from Thursday morning
National Guard troops and other law enforcement have been patrolling the DC area all week in the aftermath of the MAGA mob violence
Some members cradled their weapons while others propped them us nearby as they slept on the floor of the Capitol in front of a statue of George Washington
The National Guard has been authorized to send a total of 15,000 troops to Washington to help safeguard the capital ahead of Biden’s inauguration. Guard members are pictured sleeping at the foot of a Abraham Lincoln statue
Riot shields could be seen piled up on the floor of the Capitol as the hundreds of National Guard members slept on Wednesday morning
The troops cradled their weapons and huddled together as they slept inside the Capitol on Wednesday
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer walks past members of the National Guard as he arrives at the Capitol
The troops, which descended on DC in the wake of last week’s MAGA mob riots, were spotted cradling their weapons as they slept on the floor of the Capitol on Wednesday. They are pictured above gathering near the Statue of Freedom inside the Capitol Visitor’s Center
The FBI, National Guard, US Marshals Service, local law enforcement and other federal agencies will now fall under Secret Service command for the inauguration preparations.
They are among the 50 agencies and private companies that have formed a Multi-Agency Command Center to fortify DC ahead of the inauguration. Private companies that have joined the task force include Amtrak, whose fleet of trains frequently travel through the nation’s capitol.
The Secret Service is in charge of all security decisions but will rely on the FBI for intelligence gathering and other agencies to set up road blocks and patrol areas.
Officials are promising extremely tight security around the entire capital region that will include increased law enforcement, extra checkpoints, fencing and barricades across the city.
The public is now banned from entering the Capitol grounds and the inauguration is a ticketed-only event. Access to the Washington Monument is also now prohibited for the next two weeks due to ongoing threats.
Public access to roads, parking areas and restrooms on the National Mall, which is where crowds of supporters usually gather during inaugurations, may be shut down this week if deemed necessary.
While next week’s event was already going to be pared down because of COVID-19, authorities say the increased security means Biden’s inauguration will look drastically different to previous ones.
Law enforcement and lawmakers have already been briefed on potential threats ahead of the inauguration, including some extremists threatening to execute members of Congress.
The heightened security comes as it was revealed that extremists are now using the encoded app Telegram to coordinate and plan future attacks, NBC reports. Some are sharing knowledge of how to make, conceal and use homemade guns and bombs in advance of the inauguration.
At least 10,000 troops will be deployed in Washington by the end of the week, with the possibility of five thousand more, to help secure the Capitol area ahead of more potentially violent unrest
National Guard members sleep in the Capitol Visitor’s Center on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning
The troops were spotted in every corner of the federal building with some using the stone steps as pillows
Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitors Center
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) leads a tour for members of the National Guard as Democrats debate one article of impeachment against Trump
Airbnb to cancel and block reservations in DC during inauguration week
Airbnb has announced it is canceling and blocking all reservations in Washington D.C. during the week of Biden‘s inauguration amid fears guests will travel to the nation’s capital to incite further unrest.
The company on Wednesday responded to calls from city officials who urged Airbnb, VRBO and other rental hosts to take down their listings in the wake of last week’s deadly riots.
Days earlier, Airbnb said it had been reviewing its bookings in the area and vowed to ban any guests associated with hate groups or violent activity.
Guests whose reservations are canceled will be refunded in full. Hosts will also be reimbursed for the money they would have earned at Airbnb’s expense.
‘Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the Inauguration week,’ the company said in a statement.
‘Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C. area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations.’
The messages are being posted in Telegram chatrooms where white supremacist content has been freely shared for months, but chatter on these channels has increased since extremists have been forced off other platforms.
A US Army field manual and calls to ‘shoot politicians’ and ‘encourage armed struggle’ have been posted in a Telegram channel that uses ‘fascist’ in its name.
Facebook has also reported seeing an increase in signals indicating potential acts of violence associated with efforts to contest the result of election since the Capitol siege last week.
A company spokeswoman said the Capitol siege appeared to be a galvanizing event, spawning efforts to organize gatherings across the country for multiple dates around the inauguration.
Signals Facebook tracked included digital flyers promoting the events, some of them featuring calls to arms or the insignia of militias or hate groups.
On Monday, Facebook banned content promoting the phrase ‘stop the steal,’ which has become a rallying cry at armed pro-Trump protests. The company was also blocking searches for ‘storm the Capitol’ and flagging posts that include those phrases for further review, the spokeswoman said.
Authorities have already spoken of three separate plots to attack the Capitol ahead of the inauguration, including an ‘organized group’ of 4,000 people who are planning to prevent Democrats from entering the Capitol.
In a closed-door briefing this week, law enforcement informed lawmakers of that plot and said they are following a published ‘rules of engagement’ on when to shoot and start taking more serious action.
Another protest is being planned in honor of Ashli Babbitt, the USAF veteran who was shot at point blank range by a police officer as she tried to clamber into the Speaker’s Lobby during the Trump mob’s siege.
An FBI internal memo warned of a group that was calling for the ‘storming’ of state, local and federal government buildings, as well as court houses if Trump is removed from office.
It is not yet clear how many other plots law enforcement are already aware of.
The inauguration is being held at the same spot at the US Capitol where the violent MAGA mob rioters overran law enforcement last week and stormed the federal building.
US Secret Service special agent in charge Michael Plati, who is leading the inauguration security, insists such security breaches won’t occur at the January 20 inauguration.
Some of the heightened security measures will be obvious: officers in uniforms, checkpoints, metal detectors and fencing. But he says some won’t be so obvious.
While law enforcement never go into too much detail about security so would-be attackers aren’t tipped off, Plati said they’ve taken into account the siege.
‘It’s a poignant reminder of what can happen.’
CAPITOL: The public is now banned from entering the Capitol grounds and the inauguration will be a ticketed-only event
WHITE HOUSE: Restricted areas have already been established around the White House and Capitol grounds with extra security screenings in place for those trying to get access
EXTRA SECURITY MEASURES: Trucks were blocking streets next to the White House on Tuesday as road closures were put in place
SUPREME COURT: Fences were in place outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday
Plati said, however, that last week’s Capitol siege and the inauguration aren’t even comparable from a security standpoint.
The inauguration is designated as a ‘national special security event,’ which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, like the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police.
Other such events are the State of the Union, the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
Last week’s rally turned violent siege was viewed as a free speech event in the days before, despite multiple warnings about the potential for violence from right-wing extremist groups.
Egged on by Trump, the violent mob marched from the White House to the Capitol, where they occupied the building for hours to try to stop lawmakers from certifying Biden’s win.
One of the main problems last week was a lack of coordination by multiple agencies in the district, which won’t happen this time because those agencies have already been approved to work together and have been doing so for months, Plati said.
‘We will have the adequate resourcing, personnel and plans in place,’ he said.
Plati said the event is planned over a year with contingencies and they anticipate the possibility of extreme violence.
‘There’s a variety of methods to ensure that we have a secure, seamless, safe environment for our protectees but most importantly, the general public,’ Plati said.
After Biden is officially inaugurated, he, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
They will be joined there by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and their wives.
Plati said they’re prepared for the group to shift to Arlington – and for the possibility of threats to shift with them.