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Capitol police chief calls for permanent fencing, back-up forces — DC mayor says no way

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman is asking for permanent fencing surrounding the building along with back-up forces to be stationed nearby, as part of a plan to heighten security following the Jan. 6 attack where a mob was able to break into the halls of Congress.

Temporary fencing was installed around the building following the siege, and remains in place today. But Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) says the city “will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing.”

What are the details?

“Upon becoming the Acting Chief on January 8, 2021, I immediately directed my staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol Complex,” Pittman wrote in a statement. “This assessment is in addition to the USCP’s Inspector General’s review of the events of January 6, 2021, and the third-party review of the Complex’s physical infrastructure, processes, and command and control being conducted at the behest of Speaker Pelosi by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore.”

She noted, “even before September 11, 2001, security experts argued that more needed to be done to protect the U.S. Capitol. In fact, a 2006 security assessment specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence around the Capitol.”

“In light of recent events,” the chief continued, “I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol.”

The top cop did not specify in her statement which “recent events” she was referring to, but a West Virginia man was arrested the day before after “police found him parked near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., with a gun, 20 rounds of ammunition and ‘Stop the Steal’ paperwork in his vehicle,” NBC News reported.

Dennis Westover, 71, allegedly yelled at guards and told an officer that he wanted “to see the fence that was around my Capitol.” Westover was charged with carrying a gun without a license, unlawful possession of a firearm and unregistered ammunition.

After Pittman’s call for permanent fencing and additional back-up hit the news, Bowser took to Twitter to voice her opposition to the plan.

“Based on conversations with federal partners, there are some potentially volatile events upcoming that will require extra security,” the mayor wrote. “Fencing and the presence of troops will be a part of that. But we will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.”

She added, “When the time is right, the fencing around the White House and U.S. Capitol, just like the plywood we’ve seen on our businesses for too long, will be taken down.”

What’s the background?

The Jan. 6 attack took place following a rally for supporters of President Donald Trump, who spoke at the gathering on the National Mall held in protest of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. After storming the building, one Trump supporter was fatally shot by Capitol police and one officer later died from injuries sustained during the riot. Two other officers died from suicide following the attack.

Pittman replaced former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who was in charge at the time of the attack and forced to resign within days. The sergeants-in-arms of both the House and Senate also stepped down under pressure from Congressional leadership following the siege.

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