Everything to Know About Security Ahead of Inauguration Day

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Joe Biden will become our next president as scores of National Guard troops patrol Washington, D.C., streets, fencing topped with razor wire rings the U.S. Capitol and a large portion of the city is shut down. 

Security is tight in D.C. ahead of Inauguration Day on Wednesday after the FBI warned of threats to the city and the possibility of armed groups demonstrating in support of outgoing President Donald Trump. 

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take their oaths of office two weeks after a mob of angry Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power. Five people died, including a U.S. Capitol police officer and a woman shot by an officer. 

Do not come to D.C. to witness the inauguration, the leaders of D.C., Maryland and Virginia said. 

“Due to the unique circumstances surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration, including last week’s violent insurrection, as well as the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking the extraordinary step of encouraging Americans not to come to Washington, D.C., and to instead participate virtually, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said last week in a joint statement

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke out to condemn the far-right violence at the Capitol Building and urged all residents in the area to remain indoors.

What Is Shut Down

Fences surround the Capitol, several Metro stations are closed and the U.S. Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies have dramatically expanded the area that will be restricted for drivers. 

A seven-foot-high, unscalable fence encircles the Capitol. Armed National Guard troops patrol the area, and military vehicles are on streets. The U.S. Capitol complex is closed to the public, and the grounds will not be accessible on Inauguration Day. 

“Anyone attempting to unlawfully gain access to the Capitol Grounds by climbing a fence or any other unlawful means will be subject to an appropriate use of force and arrest,” Capitol Police said in a statement. 

Several blocks around the White House are locked down. The area is bordered by K Street NW, 14th Street NW, Constitution Avenue NW and 19th Street NW. Anyone attempting to enter can expect a security screening. Authorities may ask to see proof that people are in the area for an essential reason.

The area restricted for drivers spans as far north as Dupont Circle, as far east as Sixth Street NE, as far south as the Southeast/Southwest Freeway and as far west as the Potomac River. A smaller area will be completely closed to vehicles. 

The D.C. road restrictions and closures will remain in place until after the inauguration, the Secret Service said. Officials warn that changes to road closures may be made if conditions warrant. 

All parking garages and loading docks in the White House zone are restricted. Any vehicle remaining in any parking garage or loading dock within the zone will be stuck there until inauguration concludes, authorities say.

Photos: Tensions Run High as DC Increases Security Ahead of the Inauguration

The restrictions apply to residential and commercial buildings. Business deliveries must receive special screening at an off-site facility.

A number of bridges that cross the Potomac River and Anacostia River will be closed. If you have to travel between D.C. and Virginia, or between Ward 7 or Ward 8 and the remainder of the city, make plans now. The bridge closures will be in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Thursday, the Secret Service said. Go here for full info

From a transportation perspective, downtown D.C.is closed off like never seen before. Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss reports on a growing list of major bridge closures.

Metro announced it would close 13 stations inside the security perimeter through Jan. 21.

The following Metrorail stations are closed: 

  • Red Line stations: Farragut North, Judiciary Square, Union Station, Metro Center
  • Red/Yellow/Green Line station: Gallery Place
  • Yellow/Green Line station: Archives
  • Blue Line station: Arlington Cemetery
  • Blue Line, Orange Line and Silver Line stations: Farragut West, McPherson Square, Federal Center SW, Capitol South, Smithsonian, Federal Triangle

The Pentagon station will be closed on Inauguration Day only.

Trains will pass through the affected stations without stopping, and are operating on a Saturday schedule of every 12 minutes on the Red Line and every 15 minutes on every other line. 

In addition, 26 bus routes are detoured around the security perimeter. Metrobus will operate normal service on weekdays and weekends to accommodate customers making trips outside the security zone, with the exception of Inauguration Day, when buses will operate on a Saturday schedule.

The attack on the U.S. Capitol and threats of more violence have prompted law enforcement agencies to take extreme steps to ensure the security of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration events. David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post joined LX News to explain what to expect on Inauguration Day and how little precedent there is in U.S. history for this type of security action.

What We Know About Potential Security Threats

The FBI has warned of threats to D.C., including to lawmakers and federal monuments, and the possibility of armed groups demonstrating in the District on Inauguration Day. 

An FBI memo with information from multiple federal law enforcement agencies contained information from social media and other sources. While the memo warned of possible threats discussed by online actors, it doesn’t mean that law enforcement agencies expect violent mass protests or confrontations in every state capitol, NBC News reported.

D.C. Acting Police Chief Robert Contee said his department faces “major security threats.” He said In his decades-long career with the Metropolitan Police Department, he had never seen so many agencies provide such a high level of help for a large event.

D.C. has a National Special Security Event status, which increases security to maximum levels.

"It is all hands on deck for this from the federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence communities," said Matthew Doherty, former head of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center.

“We are very confident about that type of coordination as we have been with other National Special Security Events,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Right now, DC is a fortified city. Practically every road downtown is closed along with the National Mall. DC Police has "all hands on deck" and a massive force of federal agents and National Guard troops are guarding federal buildings and monuments. News4's Mark Segraves reports.

Here’s How You Can Watch

It doesn’t quite feel the same as being there in person, we know, but your best bet is to watch the inauguration from home on TV or online. 

The inaugural ceremony will be scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic and security threats. Members of the public are not able to get tickets, and planners have asked that you stay home. 

The day’s events will be broadcast on all major television stations, including on NBC4, and live streamed here on our website and in the NBC Washington app. 

At the swearing-in ceremony, the Rev. Leo O’Donovan, a former Georgetown University president, will give the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Andrea Hall, a firefighter from Georgia. There will be a poetry reading from Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate, and the benediction will be given by Rev. Silvester Beaman of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware.

A prime-time special hosted by Tom Hanks will be broadcast live on News4, here and in the app starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

Lady Gaga, who endorsed Biden and performed for him on the eve of Election Day, will sing the National Anthem. Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi and Demi Lovato will perform during the 90-minute special. They'll be joined by Foo Fighters, John Legend and Bruce Springsteen, with Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington introducing segments of the event.

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