Capitol Police planning to start removing fence
Capitol Police in the coming days will begin scaling back and removing parts of the perimeter fencing erected outside the Capitol after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.
In a memo to lawmakers and staff on Monday, acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett said that Capitol Police officials have stated that “there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing.”
Due to the reduced threat level since supporters of former President Trump stormed the complex, the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol will adjust the inner perimeter fencing this week to move it closer to the building and provide more street and sidewalk access.
The Architect of the Capitol will also remove the razor wire lining the top of the inner perimeter fence.
And late next week, the agencies will start removing the outer perimeter fencing and open Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue to traffic for the first time since January.
But the modified inner perimeter fencing will remain around Capitol Square — the part of the campus between Independence Ave. NW and Constitution Ave. NW and First St. NW and First St. NE — while the Architect of the Capitol “continues to make necessary security repairs to the Capitol building,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett also wrote in the memo that “it is anticipated” that the National Guard will start to reduce its presence at the Capitol in the coming weeks.
“The [Capitol Police] will continue to monitor the threat posture, should a change occur, plans will be reevaluated,” Blodgett wrote.
The Capitol Police in early March requested that the National Guard extend its deployment at the Capitol for two more months.
Around that time, the Capitol Police had revealed that it obtained intelligence showing a “possible plot to breach the Capitol” by a militia group on March 4, which some followers of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory believed would be the “true Inauguration Day” when Trump would be sworn in again for another term.
That prompted House leaders to recess a day earlier than originally scheduled, although the Senate remained in session to consider the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
A report by a team led by Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was tapped by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to conduct a security review following the riot, recommended a list of reforms that included permanent but retractable fencing around the Capitol.
“Such a solution could enable an open campus while giving security forces better options to protect the complex and its Members should a threat develop,” Honoré’s report says.
The report further recommended hiring more Capitol Police officers as well as intelligence analysts, civil disturbance units and special agents to protect high-profile members of Congress.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman similarly asked House lawmakers this month for more funding for 212 new sworn officers, 20 more intelligence analysts, a new standby force so the agency doesn’t have to rely entirely on the National Guard for backup and protection details for individual members of Congress.
Honoré also wrote in a Washington Post op-ed over the weekend that the fence should be replaced with both retractable barriers and a video surveillance network.
“History tells us that the next wave of insurrectionists will sidestep the defenses to find a weak spot, or will simply find another target. We know that the January mob was fed a steady diet of lies and false conspiracies that allowed their insecurities and fears to fester. Without understanding the causes that led to the riots, no amount of fencing will make the city or the nation safe,” Honoré wrote.