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Capitol Hill police chief calls for permanent fencing, additional security at Capitol complex

Barbed wire, is seen atop security fencing, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
January 29, 2021

The acting Capitol Police chief called for “vast improvements” to security around the Capitol building on Thursday, including permanent fencing and “the availability of ready, backup forces” following a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol complex.

In a statement released Thursday by acting chief Yogananda D. Pittman, security experts have argued that more needed to be done to keep the Capitol safe since before September 11, 2001, a notion that was reinvigorated following the violent protest that breached the Federal building on January 6.

“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, backup forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman stated.

“In fact, a 2006 security assessment specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence around the Capitol,” she continued.

Following the acting chief’s request, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser tweeted that she would “not accept” permanent fencing or extra troops long-term in the city.

“Based on conversations with federal partners, there are some potentially volatile events upcoming that will require extra security. Fencing and the presence of troops will be a part of that. But we will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC,” Bowser tweeted. “When the time is right, the fencing around the White House and U.S. Capitol, just like the plywood we’ve seen on our businesses for too long, will be taken down.”

Lawmakers have also pushed back on the permanent fencing suggestion, with Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton saying it would obstruct “the symbol of our democracy.”

“A fence didn’t fail us,” Wexton tweeted. “Law enforcement leaders did.”

The representative continued, “I believe we can keep Members, press, staff, my constituents, and all those who work here safe without walling off the symbol of our democracy. It’s the People’s House — let’s keep it that way.”

Earlier this month, a internal document reviewed by The Washington Post revealed a day before protesters turned violent on Capitol Hill, one Virginia FBI office issued a warning that demonstrators were organizing to descend on the nation’s capital to commit violence and “war,” contradicting previous declarations that the bureau didn’t have any intelligence indicating potential violence.

The report explicitly warned of calls for violence, including details that individuals were sharing a map of the tunnels running underneath the federal building and rally points in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Washington.

“As of 5 January 2021, FBI Norfolk received information indicating calls for violence in response to ‘unlawful lockdowns’ to begin on 6 January 2021 in Washington, D.C.,” the document stated. “An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one law enforcement official said the chaos that erupted was not due to an intelligence failure, but rather a failure of taking action on intelligence.