‘All Hands On Deck’: National Mall Is Closed, As Agencies Fortify D.C.

'All Hands On Deck': National Mall Is Closed, As Agencies Fortify D.C.

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U.S. park rangers look at the spot where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous «I Have a Dream» speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Security threats have prompted officials to shut down the National Mall and much of downtown Washington, D.C.

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'All Hands On Deck': National Mall Is Closed, As Agencies Fortify D.C.
National Security
Strict Security Measures In Place Across The Nation Ahead Of Inauguration Day

Many streets are also being closed off, including the Memorial Bridge that runs from the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Other bridges entering the city could also be closed, though the timing and details are not yet certain, officials said.

Two areas along Pennsylvania Ave. will remain accessible to a limited number of demonstrators, with up to 100 people allowed to gather in each zone.

«They will be met by U.S. Park Police, escorted through magnetometers and then taken to these areas so that they can exercise their First Amendment rights,» said Jeff Reinbold, the NPS superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

Federal officials, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and others gave new details about their security plans at a briefing Friday. They also urged people to enjoy the inauguration from home, and follow it online rather than in person.

Once a security perimeter is fully in place, any vehicle that enters will have to do so through a checkpoint, where it will be «searched for explosives, weapons and other prohibited items,» said Matt Miller, head of the Secret Service’s Washington field office.

Discussing needs to secure the rest of Washington and other areas that could be targeted, Miller said «we can’t create a fortress and allow the rest of the city to suffer in services» from fire, emergency and police agencies.

«It’s all hands on deck for our entire agency,» said the Metropolitan Police Department’s acting chief, Robert Contee. «Because our entire agency has responsibility for the entire city.»

Bowser acknowledged that while she agrees that the security measures, including a new fence around the Capitol complex, are necessary and prudent, she isn’t happy that large chunks of her city now look like militarized zones.

«I’m sad about it, I have to tell you, that it looks that way,» she said. «I’m committed to making sure that we get our city back.»

But there is a special responsibility, the mayor said, to ensure «a peaceful transition of power in our country.»

The National Guard did not have a representative at the briefing. When asked what Guard members’ rules of engagement will be, Miller of the Secret Service said the National Guard is «printing rules of engagement cards for each of its soldiers deployed on this exercise.»

Miller added that he believes that Guard members will be following the same guidelines as the agencies they’re working alongside, such as the U.S. Capitol Police.