DC delegate to introduce bill banning permanent fencing around Capitol
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District of Columbia’s non-voting representative in Congress, said Monday that she will introduce legislation that would prohibit fencing erected around the Capitol complex in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection from becoming permanent.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman suggested late last month that there should be tall fencing around the Capitol complex to prevent another attack like the one by a violent mob of former President Trump’s supporters, who were trying to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election results.
But Pittman’s proposal immediately encountered bipartisan pushback from lawmakers, including Norton, who balked at the idea of walling off what has traditionally been an open campus so that members of the public can feel like they have access to their representatives.
“In the year 2021, we should not be relying on security theater based on 19th-century ideas when state-of-the-art options and old-fashioned preparation and cooperation among security forces could have prevented the events of January 6. My bill banning permanent fencing will help put the needed focus back on security options that don’t wall off the Capitol like a fortress that needs to be protected from the people we represent,” Norton said in a statement.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) has also said that the city’s government “would not accept” permanent fencing around the Capitol and has said the troops and fences would not be a “long-term fixture.”
Five people died as a result of the violence of Jan. 6, including a Capitol Police officer and a rioter who was shot by a police officer while she was trying to break into the House chamber.
Since Jan. 6, a 7-foot fence with coiled barbed wire has gone up around the Capitol complex and thousands of National Guard members remain on campus to provide support for the Capitol Police.
Capitol Police had only erected bike rack-style fencing around the Capitol on Jan. 6, which the mob easily pushed through. Some rioters even used the fences as ladders to climb into the Capitol.
There are currently two layers of tall fencing: one around the immediate Capitol grounds as well as another stretching past the surrounding office buildings.
National Guard members are expected to be stationed there into at least March until Capitol officials establish a new security posture incorporating changes in response to the Jan. 6 attack.
Pittman noted last month that security experts have been calling for more stringent security measures for the Capitol for decades.
“I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman said.
Congress is expected to consider a supplemental funding package to address security concerns for the Capitol campus and individual members of Congress who are receiving threats. A timeline has not yet been established for when the House and Senate will vote on the funding.
The House passed a similar measure in 2017 after the shooting at a GOP baseball practice to grant lawmakers an additional $25,000 for security needs.