Security concerns have put Washington D.C., the United States capital, on edge ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
Up to 25,000 United States National Guard troops are being deployed to the city for the inauguration, in a massive security ramp-up after President Donald Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
The incident has made the city jittery, underscored by a brief shutdown on Monday, which was the result of a small fire in a homeless encampment.
“Due to an external security threat under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets SE, staff and other personnel are directed to avoid coming to the Capitol Complex area until further notice,” Capitol Police said in a letter to lawmakers Monday morning. “All personnel currently on the Capitol Complex are advised to stay indoors and away from windows and doors.”
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services said on Twitter that the fire had been extinguished. It said the fire was caused by a homeless person who used propane, adding the incident resulted in one individual sustaining “non life threatening injury.”
On-site photos showed people inside the Capitol were evacuated from the West Front of the building. They were rehearsing the presidential inauguration.
On Friday, a man who was carrying an unlicensed firearm and over 500 rounds of ammunition was arrested at a security checkpoint.
The man, identified as 31-year-old Wesley Allen Beeler from the neighboring state of Virginia, was released Saturday on personal recognizance, saying after the release that he made “an honest mistake.”
With seven-foot barriers being erected around the Capitol, its office buildings and the Supreme Court, the city core is in a virtual lockdown.
Vehicle traffic in much of the city is prohibited or limited to residents and businesses only. Military vehicles are seen parking at intersections downtown to boost security. Many of the restrictions are expected to remain in place until Thursday after the inauguration.
Residents said they do not recognize Washington D.C. with so many military personnel lining the streets, in a city known as a tourist attraction.
“Frank,” not his real name, a longtime resident of the area around Washington D.C., told Xinhua the deployment is an “over-reaction,” adding that a few “rednecks” breaking into the Capitol are not the threat to Democracy that the “liberal media” is selling.
Cathy, who declined to give her last name, told Xinhua: “I don’t need my tax dollars to be spent on that,” referring to the massive Guard deployment.
Others, however, said the National Guard troop deployment is needed to ensure a safe inauguration.
Darren Wilson, who lives just outside Washington D.C., said the troop deployment is “understandable,” given the breach in security at the Capitol building that allowed rioters to penetrate.
Linda, who also declined to give her last name, agreed, saying the Guard is “needed” to prevent further riots.
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