Washington, DC – DC Mayor Muriel Bowser sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Saturday requesting an immediate pre-disaster emergency declaration and the cancellation of all protest permits until Jan. 24.
On Monday, Bowser called on federal authorities to completely restructure plans for the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden at a press conference, WUSA reported.
She told reporters that “if I’m scared of anything, it’s for our democracy, because we have very extreme factions in our country that are armed and dangerous.”
“We also know that Trumpism won’t die on January 20, but our American values and our DC values are stronger than one extreme ideology. We will overcome this extremism together it will,” the mayor said.
Then Bowser thanked DC’s first responders who ran into danger to help quell the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and delivered a backhanded compliment to the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
“When the U.S. Capitol Police called us for backup, MPD answered the call and performed heroically,” the mayor said. “They were called a lot of names in 2020, but today our city rightfully calls them heroes.”
Bowser’s letter to the Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf also asked that the current White House administration put the kibosh on any permitted public demonstrations or gatherings in the nation’s capital, effective immediately and lasting until four days after the Jan. 20 Inauguration.
I strongly urge the United States Department of Homeland Security to adjust its approach to the Inauguration in several specific ways, and have outlined them in the following letter to Acting Secretary Wolf. pic.twitter.com/GaxUWfFbxk
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) January 10, 2021
The National Park Service (NPS) announced on Jan. 11 that the Washington Monument would be closed to visitors for the next two weeks and that they might also “may institute temporary closures of public access to roadways, parking areas and restrooms within the National Mall and Memorial Parks if conditions warrant, to protect public safety and park resources,” CNN reported.
A senior defense official said that the 10,000 National Guard troops who were already assigned to the Inauguration had already begun arriving in the city.
In her letter to Wolf, Bowser pointed out that it was the federal government’s responsibility to provide its own security for federal buildings and monuments across the nation’s capital and said expecting DC police to fill the gap was leaving the city undermanned to respond to residents’ emergency calls and to protect city property.
President Donald Trump agreed with that assessment and issued the mayor’s requested emergency declaration on Monday, paving the way for federal agencies to work together to relieve pressure on local resources to maintain the peace during the Inaugural activities.
On Jan. 6, a response by National Guard and law enforcement officers from Virginia and Maryland was delayed for hours because of bureaucracy required to allow them to cross into the DC to help at the Capitol riot, according to The Hill.
“So, our Guard mobilized and was ready. But we couldn’t actually cross over the border into D.C. without the OK,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan explained on Sunday. “And that was quite some time. We kept running it up the flagpole, our generals talking to the National Guard generals. And eventually, I got a call from Ryan McCarthy, the secretary of the Army, asking if we could come into the city. But we had already been mobilizing.”
There has been no word from the U.S. Department of the Interior on Bowser’s request that all permits for demonstrations be rescinded or denied through Jan. 24.
Those permits are usually issued by the U.S. Park Police, which falls under the Interior Department, and the mayor’s request to prohibit free speech in the nation’s capital by banning public gatherings is likely to be met by a slew of First Amendment lawsuits, the DCist reported.
But Bowser said Monday that she doesn’t see the infringement on free speech as a problem.
“People coming to demonstrate peacefully are very different than the people we saw storm the Capitol the other day,” she told reporters. “I think that it will be shown that those people were organized, trained people who went into that building. This inaugural planning period has to be very different from all the others.”