Jan. 13 (UPI) — National Guard troops stationed at the U.S. Capitol stayed there overnight Tuesday — many of whom slept on the marble floors throughout the building, with automatic weapons at their sides.
Their presence is part of a security buildup ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week amid threats of new violence in the wake of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
New barricades were installed overnight in areas around the Capitol building and people approaching the area were questioned and closely guarded by various law enforcement personnel.
Members of the House of Representatives were back at work on Wednesday, debating a second impeachment of President Donald Trump for inciting the riots in which five people were killed.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news conference Wednesday the city is blocking off streets around the Capitol and asked federal officials to cancel all permits for public gatherings in the days before next Wednesday’s inauguration.
“This is a major security threat and we are working to mitigate those threats,” acting Washington Metro Police Chief Robert Contee said.
Contee said the National Guard will have more than 20,000 troops available to the city to protect the inauguration, expanding the number by 5,000. Their presence is a response to an FBI warning that radical Trump supporters may be plotting more violence in the coming days at the U.S. Capitol, as well as statehouses in all 50 states.
The troops responsible for security at the U.S. Capitol complex were prepared to use lethal force, if necessary, U.S. Air National Guard Capt. Chelsi Johnson told Politico late Tuesday.
Johnson added that Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has approved a request by federal and Washington authorities for armed National Guard troops to protect Capitol.
Leaders in Washington and neighboring Virginia and Maryland have asked visitors not to travel to the D.C. area, due to the heightened security and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Property rental company Airbnb also said Wednesday it is blocking and canceling all bookings in the Washington area for the week of the inauguration.