There were no cars or scooters and apparently no tourists Wednesday, just the occasional runner and several construction crews at work.
“We are clearly in uncharted waters,” said Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.
Last week’s “violent insurrection” on Capitol Hill by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump has “impacted the way we approach working with our federal partners in planning for the 59th inauguration,” Bowser said Wednesday.
The FBI warned that armed protests by violent Trump supporters were being planned in all 50 state capitals, as well as Washington, in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Between the pandemic and the threat to security, Ms. Bowser strongly urges people not to come to the District of Columbia for the inauguration.
And at the request of Ms Bowser, a declaration of a Special National Security Event was postponed until January 13, a distinction that she says “establishes a completely different command and control structure” for security.
NSSE status is normal for a presidential inauguration and other major events like an international summit or the Super Bowl. But it’s rare to start the lockdown so far in advance of the event.
Police vehicles sealed off a large swath of downtown Washington DC on Wednesday, causing an immediate traffic jam.
Starting Wednesday, Bowser said, anyone within the perimeter of the unveiling could be detained and questioned.
Starting Friday, all parking lots in the downtown restricted area will be sealed during the opening.
In addition to the threat of violence, activist groups say Trump supporters are a threat to the health of hotel staff because of their general refusal to wear face masks amid the pandemic.
Several downtown hotels, including one that had become a favorite hangout for the militant Proud Boy faction, chose to avoid trouble by closing last week.
“Closing hotels completely during these six nights is the only way to ensure the safety of hotel workers, neighbors, vulnerable and homeless residents, incoming administration officials, members of Congress, and our democracy,” the statement said.
“If hotels do not voluntarily close, we ask Mayor Bowser to extend today’s emergency order and close all hotels in the city.”
Ms. Bowser said she had been in regular contact with Airbnb officials since last week, but did not specifically request this step.
“We are aware of reports that emerged yesterday afternoon about known armed militias and hate groups attempting to travel and disrupt the opening,” Airbnb said in a statement.
“We continue our work to ensure that members of hate groups are not part of the Airbnb community.”
According to officials, the number of guards who will actually carry weapons will be limited.
Some members of the Guard closest to the Capitol will have long guns and others will have their handguns.
Those closest to the crowd or on the fences are likely not armed, but those closest to the building may be.
Members of the National Guard operate under strict rules of engagement on the use of force. But generally speaking, troops can use deadly force to protect the lives of others and themselves.
Officials also said that while 15,000 Guard members have been activated, more can be called in.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee estimated Wednesday that more than 20,000 members of the National Guard would be active in the District of Columbia on inauguration day.
Officials continue to review law enforcement requests, with some believing that several thousand more could be added.
Defense and military officials have been calling governors and aides general to ask if they could send people, if asked.
So far, officials said state leaders have said protecting their own capitals will be their top priority, but they still have a few Guard members that they will be able to send, if necessary.