Mayor of Washington calls for ban on public gatherings

Mayor of Washington calls for ban on public gatherings

The Democratic mayor of Washington DC has asked federal authorities to deny permits for public gatherings until after the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden as the capital city tightens security amid fears of further violence after last week’s rampage.

Hundreds of Trump supporters over-ran law enforcement officers to storm the Capitol building last Wednesday, leading the deaths of five people and interrupting the certification of the US election results by senators. 

In a press conference on Monday morning, Muriel Bowser said she had asked the Department of the Interior to deny all permits for public gatherings until January 24, four days after the inauguration of Mr Biden. 

The National Park Service, which oversees the management of the national mall — a strip of parkland that runs from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial — said it would temporarily close access to the Washington Monument due to continued threats from groups involved in the riots at the Capitol. 

It added that it would also temporarily close some roadways and parking areas. While all closures are currently scheduled to end January 24, the park service said it would extend them if necessary. 

Ms Bowser said she had written to the president to request that he declare Washington to be in a state of “pre-emergency disaster” so the city can prepare a more effective security plan for Mr Biden’s inauguration next week.

“This is necessary because the inauguration poses several unprecedented challenges that exceed the scope of our traditional planning processes,” said Ms Bowser, referring to the recent attack on the Capitol building and the continued prevalence of Covid-19

In an interview with The Washington Post on Monday, Steven Sund, the outgoing Capitol Police chief, said delays and refusals from officials to grant him swift help from the National Guard contributed to his forces being swiftly overwhelmed by the pro-Trump mob.

General Daniel Hokanson, the highest-ranking officer in the National Guard, told reporters on Monday that 10,000 National Guard personnel would be on hand for the inauguration, with authorisation for up to 15,000 if needed.

The Pentagon has drawn criticism for its late response to last week’s attack on the Capitol. National Guard forces arrived at the scene on Wednesday evening, nearly four hours after Mr Sund launched an emergency appeal for assistance. The National Guard has so far sent 6,200 personnel to the capital in the wake of the attack.

Authorities have continued to announce arrests over last week’s violence, with Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, telling radio station NPR over the weekend that “hundreds” of people could ultimately face charges over the storming of the Capitol.

Many of the arrested people facing federal charges are alleged by the DoJ to have been illegally carrying weapons ranging from handguns to homemade Molotov cocktails.

On Monday, Ms Bowser said that she had requested that federal forces develop a security plan for all federal property, and that she had asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to provide daily intelligence briefings.

Additional reporting by Katrina Manson in Washington

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