Soldiers took up positions on Capitol Hill in a scene reminiscent of Civil War deployments as Washington prepared for the inauguration of a new president and a vote to impeach the current one.
With more than 20,000 National Guard units summoned, the Capitol and its park-like campus resembled an armed camp, with soldiers armed with rifles standing at arm’s length from each other and heavy military trucks blocking them. roads. The city itself faced a wide perimeter of closed streets.
This follows the invasion of Capitol Hill last week by supporters of President Donald Trump, which left five people dead. The U.S. Secret Service began what they call special national security event operations for the 2021 inauguration on Wednesday, rather than the date scheduled a day before Democrat Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration.
“There is a major security threat,” said DC Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III. When asked if he had ever experienced such precautionary measures, he replied, “Not at this level, no.”
Contee said that “somewhere up above, over 20,000 members of the National Guard” are called to take up positions in the city. Security measures could extend to Metro metro system, Mayor Muriel Bowser said without providing details.
“We should ask DC residents to expect some impacts on transportation. This includes Metro, ”Bowser said. “Our hotels are very worried” and some could close for security reasons, she added.
Airbnb Inc.say itwill cancel all reservations in the Washington area next week at the grand opening and ban all new rentals, measures designed to minimize the possibility of further attacks in the capital.
Bowser encouraged people to watch the grand opening from their homes instead of visiting.
And in places usually teeming with tourists in less stressful times, dozens of soldiers slept on the floors and in the hallways of the Capitol.
The soldiers are not staying at the Capitol, US Air Force lieutenant-colonelWayde minamiof the Maryland National Guard said in an email. “This area of the Capitol has been designated as a rest area for members of the National Guard when on duty, but between shifts,” Minami said.
Soldiers were present in large numbers in 1862.
“There have been other cases where soldiers have been assigned to protect the Capitol, but the Civil War is the only time we know where they have been staying there,” said Samuel Holliday, director of operations and scholarships from the nonprofit that promotes the history of Capitol Hill and Congress.
On August 31 of the same year, the Washington Military District headquarters requisitioned the Capitol for use as a hospital after a battle, according to ablog postby the office of the architect of the Capitol. The Union has suffered 16,000 casualties and is in desperate need of places to treat the wounded.
Beds were installed in the rotunda, the old hall of the house (now known as the National Room of Statuary) and the hallways. Public Buildings Commissioner Benjamin Brown French estimated that between 1,100 and 1,200 sick and wounded soldiers were brought to the Capitol and sentries were stationed at every door.
“Besides the field hospital, there were also units of healthy soldiers housed in the building not only to protect the Capitol, but also to protect the Union,” Holliday, the historian, said in a letter. electronic.
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