Washington Post – Security measures related to Friday’s presidential inauguration are already visible, in the form of Jersey barriers placed on the streets near Lafayette Square. Parking restrictions will begin Wednesday. Streets will start closing Thursday.
By week’s end, the nation’s capital will have transformed into a virtual fortress of roadblocks, fences and armed police. Streets will be barricaded with trucks filled with sand. Five Metro stations will close Friday. Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue will be next to impossible.
The peaceful transfer of power is made possible by overlaying a tight security grid using 28,000 security officials over 100 square blocks of prime downtown real estate — from the White House to the Capitol and beyond, with a price tag in the tens of millions of dollars.
An estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people are expected to watch Donald Trump become president. Security officials said there are 63 demonstration groups, pro and con, expected on Jan. 20, and an additional 36 on other days. Those include groups with permits and others who have signaled participation through social media.
The presidential reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
To accomplish having a tranquil event amid worries of terrorist attacks and threats by some groups to disrupt the celebration requires bringing in 3,000 police officers from across the nation and 5,000 members of the National Guard, bolstering the already large law enforcement footprint imposed on everyday Washington. The numbers this year are the same as in years past.
“We’re constantly adapting, evolving and enhancing our protective methodology to protect against emerging threats,” said Brian Ebert, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the Washington field office. “We are monitoring our adversaries, paying close attention to their trends and tactics.”
Authorities said it makes little difference whether the Secret Service is protecting Trump, who is known for unpredictable behavior, or someone more apt to follow established customs. They dismissed notions that protecting Trump might be more difficult given his unique personality and the variety of people and groups he has angered.
“A lot of people think it’s different because of the individual,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a retired Secret Service agent who worked on President Obama’s inauguration in 2013 and now runs RANE, a security consulting group in New York. “It’s very much the threat level as a whole.”
But Scott J. White, a professor and director of the cybersecurity program at George Washington University, said Trump’s use of Twitter and the language he uses have spurned outrage that poses new risks.
“There are elements of the president-elect’s behavior that may pose a slightly greater threat,” White said. “I think his use of social media has a tendency to inflame people’s attitude toward him. And I think this particular method of engaging the public has definitely resulted in a different kind of adversary.”
For the most part, security experts said police say they will do what they always have done for such events: snipers on rooftops; boat restrictions in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers; manhole covers welded shut; light poles removed; trash cans and mailboxes hauled away; and multilevel perimeters established along the parade route and viewing areas at the Capitol Building, with metal detectors and bag checks.
The list of prohibited items is long and includes things one might expect — ammunition, weapons, explosives — but also balloons, selfie-sticks, and supports for placards and coolers.
“Bring a little bit of patience,” Ebert said. “We have a lot of checkpoints and we have a lot of people.”
Crowds are expected to be smaller than the 2 million people who attended President Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009, and on par with the 1 million or so who came to his second swearing-in, in 2013. But more protesters are anticipated this year after a polarizing campaign, reflecting divisions evident across the nation.
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