Law enforcement officials concerned by the prospect for violence at a rally in the nation's capital next week are planning to reinstall protective fencing that surrounded the U.S. Capitol for months after the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Though no specific measures have been announced, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted during her weekly press conference Wednesday at extra safety precautions for the Sept. 18 rally by saying: “We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact.” Briefings for lawmakers, including congressional leaders, are expected in coming days.
The Capitol Police formally requested the fence to the board that oversees it, and it is likely to be approved, according to a House Democratic aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about private discussions.
Police continue to track intelligence indicating far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are planning to attend next week's rally, which is designed to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, however, has said he doesn't expect his membership to attend.
The fence had been a stark symbol of the fear many in the Capitol felt after the mob pushed its way past overwhelmed police officers, broke through windows and doors and ransacked the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win.
The planned Sept. 18 rally comes as a jittery Washington has seen a series of troubling one-off incidents — including, most recently, a man who parked a pickup truck near the Library of Congress and said he had a bomb and detonator.
Perhaps the most concerning: A series of unexploded pipe bombs placed near the Capitol on Jan. 5 remain unexplained and no suspect has been charged.
The FBI released a new video of that suspect on Wednesday and a digital map showing the person circling the offices of the Democratic and Republican national committees, where the bombs were placed. The FBI also said, for the first time, that agents believe the suspect is not from the Washington area but may have been “operating” out of a location near the Capitol.
The #FBI released a new video of the person who placed pipe bombs in Washington, D.C., between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on January 5. If you recognize the suspect, submit a tip at https://t.co/iL7sD5efWD. Tips can remain anonymous. @FBIWFO https://t.co/MxOeYBacZR pic.twitter.com/6mCpuP46Ib— FBI (@FBI) September 9, 2021
Some lawmakers and top union officials were expected to be briefed on the fence plan later this week and another more expansive briefing for the leaders of the House and Senate was planned for Monday.
On Capitol Hill, the politics around fencing in the iconic building and its grounds proved challenging for lawmakers after the January insurrection.
Many said they disliked closing off access, even as they acknowledged the increased level of security it provided.
The fencing finally came down with a promise to re-erect it if necessary, but the question of what deserves fencing is tricky.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.