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DC Inauguration Updates: Police Chief Says MPD Facing ‘Major Security Threats'

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 1/13/2021 Sophia Barnes and NBC Washington Staff
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 13: Members of the National Guard rest in the Visitor Center of the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security has been increased throughout Washington following the breach of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, and leading up to the Presidential inauguration. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images) © Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 13: Members of the National Guard rest in the Visitor Center of the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. Security has been increased throughout Washington following the breach of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, and leading up to the Presidential inauguration. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Fencing topped with razor wire surrounds the U.S. Capitol, gates of the official Vice-Presidential residence have been reinforced with concrete and hundreds of armed National Guard troops have arrived to secure Washington, D.C., ahead of Inauguration Day.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned of threats to D.C., including to lawmakers and federal monuments, and the possibility of armed groups demonstrating in the city before and on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

Those threats, following the deadly U.S. Capitol riot one week ago where a pro-Trump mob overwhelmed police officers protecting the building, have evoked a security response far stronger than officials initially planned.

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Here’s what to know Wednesday about inauguration security in D.C.

DC Police Chief Says Inauguration Has 'Major Security Threat'

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert Contee have made it clear they want people to forgo trips to the capital for inauguration and instead mark the event at home.

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“We're not asking people to come to D.C. for this is a major security threat, and we are working to mitigate those threats,” Contee said. "I remain concerned. I've been concerned before today will be for this weekend, and beyond."

Contee said the Metropolitan Police Department is “intently focused” on inauguration security. In his decades-long career with MPD, Contee says he has never seen so many agencies provide this level of help for a large event.

More security measures could be announced in the coming days, including changes to transportation.

But Bowser said that she’s not prepared to meet some demands to close hotels, saying that National Guard troops and security forces need them for accommodation.

Discussions are ongoing with the Department of the Interior after D.C. requested officials cancel permits for demonstrations on Inauguration Day, Bowser said.

Airbnb to Block, Cancel DC Reservations During Inauguration Week

Airbnb announced it will cancel and block reservations in the Washington, D.C. area the week of inauguration to ensure "hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community."

"Additionally, we are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration," Airbnb's statement said.

Mayor 'Confident' in National Special Security Event Coordination

Starting Wednesday, D.C. is under a National Special Security Event through the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Jan. 20.

The enhanced security measures were moved up from Jan. 19 in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol, the News4 I-Team reported.

The National Special Security Event increases security in the District to maximum levels.

"It is all hands on deck for this from the federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence communities," said Matthew Doherty, former head of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center.

The NSSE is “a whole different structure” of response and wasn’t in place during the Jan. 6 demonstrations and riots, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

“We are very confident about that type of coordination as we have been with other National Special Security Events,” Bowser said.

Doherty says expect to see a heavy law enforcement presence around the monuments and other symbolically important sites, since threats often target buildings and iconic locations, not just specific people.

"The mere absence of a direct threat on social media doesn't mean that you can't allocate resources," said Doherty. "We look for attack-related behavior, taking selfies from the site ... pre-attack surveillance."

Parking Restrictions, Road Closures Planned

Washington, D.C., is locking down near the U.S. Capitol, White House and National Mall, bracing for the possibility of further unrest before and on Inauguration Day.

Starting 8 a.m. Thursday, numerous streets will be closed and cars left in parking garages within certain perimeters will be stuck there until after inauguration concludes, authorities say.

The White House perimeter runs from K Street to 14th Street to Constitution Avenue to 19th Street Northwest.

Here’s more on street closures and parking restrictions.

Metro Service Plans and Closures

Metro announced Wednesday that it would close 13 stations inside the security perimeter, meaning that trains will pass through without stopping.

The following stations will close on Friday and remain closed until Jan. 21:

  • Red Line stations closed: Farragut North, Judiciary Square, Union Station
  • Yellow Line stations closed: Green Line Archives
  • Blue Line station closed: Arlington Cemetery
  • Blue Line, Orange Line and Silver Line stations closed: Farragut West McPherson Square, Federal Center SW, Capitol South, Smithsonian, Federal Triangle

The following stations will close on Saturday and remain closed until Jan. 21:

  • Metro Center
  • Gallery Place

"Beginning on Friday and continuing for six days, trains will operate on a Saturday schedule (every 12 minutes on the Red Line/15 minutes on all other lines)," Metro said.

In addition, 26 bus routes will be detoured around the expanded security perimeter beginning on Friday through Jan. 21.

Metrobus will operate normal service on weekdays and weekends to accommodate customers making trips outside the security zone, with the exception of Jan. 20, when buses will operate on a Saturday schedule.

Extra Precautions at Naval Observatory, Around National Mall

Crews at the Naval Observatory, official residence of the Vice President, erected a security fence overnight Wednesday in front of the compound’s gates along Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Concrete barriers were put up behind the regular fence.

It's one of many clearly visible signs that the city is becoming a fortress — particularly around major federal buildings and monuments.

News4 has learned razor wire will be installed on a seven-foot fence around the Capitol that is supposed to be unscalable.

Hundreds of National Guard troops were seen walking off buses Tuesday night near the National Mall, preparing to assist in securing the city through the inauguration. By Saturday, about 1,500 troops are expected to be in D.C.

The National Guard has confirmed to News4 that the guard troops at the Capitol are authorized to be armed.

“Most urgent and immediate is to security the Capitol building and its immediate area,” said Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland. “I’m confident with the large number of National Guard troops that will be part of that operation.”

Rep. Conor Lamb, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told News4’s Shomari Stone that the increased security measures have made him feel safer — and are important to the transition of power.

“There’s definitely been a big surge of National Guard support,” Lamb said. “I do think it’s important for Americans to see President-elect Biden out there in front of the Capitol like any other president getting sworn in.”

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