WASHINGTON: The FBI has warned of armed protests being planned for Washington and all 50 US state capitals in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
The FBI issued warnings for next weekend that run at least until Inauguration Day after being threatened with more violence from outgoing President Donald Trump’s supporters following last Wednesday’s storming of the US Capitol.
In other steps to safeguard the US capital, the National Guard was authorized to send up to 15,000 troops to Washington, and tourists were barred from visiting the Washington Monument until January 24.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson, told reporters he expected about 10,000 troops in Washington by Saturday to help provide security, logistics and communications. He said the number could rise to 15,000 if requested by local authorities.
At least one lawmaker asked the Pentagon to do more. Senator Chris Murphy, who said he was sending a letter to the acting secretary of defense, said it was unclear if the National Guard would be sufficient to protect the nation’s capital and that active-duty troops may be needed also.
“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” Biden told reporters in Newark, Delaware, referring to the traditional setting for the swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol grounds. He said it was critically important that people “who engaged in sedition and threatened people’s lives, defaced public property, caused great damage” be held accountable.
Biden’s inaugural committee said the theme of the January 20 ceremony would be “America United.” Trum said last week he would not attend the ceremony, a decision the president-elect supported.
The Park Service said it would suspend tours of the Washington Monument, an obelisk honoring the country’s first president, due to safety concerns from threats to disrupt the inauguration.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser called for the US Interior Department to cancel public-gathering permits through January 24. In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, she called for a fresh approach to security after what she called last week’s “unprecedented terrorist attack.”
The assault on the Capitol sent lawmakers into hiding and left five people dead including a police officer. Dozens of people have been charged in the violence and hundreds of more cases are expected.
The assault occurred shortly after Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol during a rally where he repeated false claims his resounding defeat in November’s election was illegitimate. Democrats in Congress began a push to force Trump from office, introducing an article of impeachment that accuses him of inciting insurrection.
The presidential inaugural committee has told Americans not to travel to the inauguration, and said Washington’s National Mall would be covered with 191,500 flags of different sizes, to represent the missing crowds.
A presidential inauguration traditionally draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Washington, but the ceremonies have been scaled back dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic.