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'Enjoy it virtually': DC mayor urges Americans to stay home for Biden's inauguration

NBC News logo NBC News 1/15/2021 Jane C. Timm
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Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and security officials on Friday urged Americans to watch President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration from home.

The inauguration will take place two weeks after violent rioters breached the Capitol — and right-wing extremists are calling for more violence when Biden is sworn-in.

“I want to reiterate my request to Americans enjoy this 59th inauguration of the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States at home. Enjoy it virtually on January 20th,” Bowser said. “We know this is the right request for our public safety and our public health.”

The mayor's remarks come shortly after the National Park Service announced Friday that it was shutting down the National Mall through the inauguration, from Friday to at least Thursday of next week. Much of the downtown area also has been closed off to try to keep the area secure.

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Asked about the enormous law enforcement presence and closures that are making D.C. look militarized, Bowser said she's "sad about it."

"But I also know that we have a special responsibility, that there is a peaceful transition of power in our country," she said. "We're proud in Washington to host the federal government, and we want to make sure that that event is peaceful."

Bowser and law enforcement agencies are under enormous pressure after the security failures of last week, when a pro-Trump mob was able to breach the Capitol and rioted in a violent day that left five people dead, including a police officer.

Federal prosecutors now say there is “strong evidence” that the rioters intended to capture and assassinate members of Congress during the counting of the Electoral College votes.

Democrats have increasingly raised alarms about security threats during the inauguration.

"They're talking about 4,000 armed patriots to surround the Capitol and prevent any Democrat from going in,” Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., said Tuesday on CNN. "They have published rules of engagement, meaning when you shoot and when you don't."

Bowser said there had been an “unprecedented level of preparation,” something law enforcement officials at the briefing on Friday repeated.

Matt Miller, the special agent in charge of the the Secret Service's Washington field office, said numerous agencies had been preparing for a year to ensure the safety of the ceremony.

“We cannot allow a recurrence of the chaos and illegal activity that the United States witnessed last week,” Miller said. The Secret Service is running security for the inauguration with support from thousands of National Guardsmen and police officers.

Just 100 people will be allowed to protest the inauguration after being screened by metal detectors, officials said Friday. There are also road and parking closures that began Friday and will run through the same period. Buses, Metro trains and bike-share services have been modified as well.

Asked if the area would return to normal after the inauguration, Bowser said the area would "go back to a new normal."

"We saw white extremists storm the Capitol building who were trained and organized, seemingly with the intent to capture the vice president of the United States and perhaps harm other lawmakers. We all have to think about a new posture," she said.

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