Politics & Policy

Push for Permanent Fencing at Capitol Meets Opposition

National Guard soldiers maintain a watch over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 14, 2021. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A push by law enforcement for permanent fencing around the U.S. Capitol following the violence on January 6 has been met with opposition from lawmakers and the public, with critics arguing that fencing off “The People’s House” would send the wrong message to voters and the world.

Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman on Thursday proposed installing permanent fencing around the Capitol building, which was fenced off following the deadly riot earlier this month by Trump supporters, who pushed past the Capitol Police and marauded through the halls of Congress.

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser quickly shot down the idea, saying the city will “not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.”

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and D.C.’s only House member, also slammed the proposal in a letter to the Capitol Police Board this week.

“Permanent fencing would send the wrong message to the nation and the world, by transforming our democracy from one that is accessible and of the people to one that is exclusive and fearful of its citizens,” Norton wrote.

Other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed and chastised law enforcement for failing to protect lawmakers and the seat of the U.S. government during the riot.

“I adamantly oppose this action. A fence didn’t fail us. Law enforcement leaders did. I believe we can keep Members, press, staff, my constituents, and all those who work here safe without walling off the symbol of our democracy. It’s the People’s House—let’s keep it that way,” Representative Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, wrote in a Thursday tweet.

“This is the People’s House. I am adamantly opposed,” Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York said in a tweet. “There has been no threat briefing given to Members of Congress to justify this proposal.”

Another Democrat, Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts, added that it would be a “mistake to turn the home of our democracy into a fortress.”

“The Capitol needs to be safely open for constituents, press, and visitors,” Auchincloss said.

The riot a week before President Biden’s inauguration prompted enhanced security measures in the nation’s capital, including fencing, a greater law enforcement presence, and the deployment of about 25,000 National Guard members from various states.

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