Lockdown of D.C. Quiets Protesters But Prompts First Amendment Debate

January 20, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Inauguration day at the Capitol. (Photo by Tom Ramstack)

WASHINGTON — Only about 200 demonstrators made good on their pledge to protest the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on Wednesday.

This time, there was no large-scale protest of the election like the one that drew thousands to Washington on Jan. 6.

The tamer demonstrations Wednesday were restricted to a small area between the National Archives and the Canadian Embassy in downtown Washington. The peaceful protesters consisted largely of people holding signs with various slogans on them.

Any chances of a security breach were overwhelmed by 25,000 National Guardsmen with machine guns, concrete barriers and chain-link fences with razor wire on top surrounding the National Capital Mall.

A bomb threat was phoned in anonymously to the Supreme Court before the inauguration ceremony but it was quickly determined to be fake. Anywhere else during the inauguration, anyone police considered a troublemaker was excluded from the area around the Mall or arrested.

About 1,000 guests attended the ceremony, far fewer than the roughly 200,000 at previous inauguration ceremonies.

Discussion about what the National Guard and police lockdown of downtown Washington means for First Amendment free speech rights continues among local residents and visitors.

Local and federal officials tried to address the concerns during a press conference on 

Friday. 

Jeffrey Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said at the press conference that government officials would prefer to allow First Amendment activities, which usually mean demonstrations.

“We are the premier First Amendment arena in the country, in the world, probably,” Reinbold said.

However, he added, “These are different times and require different measures.”

Matt Miller, who manages the Secret Service’s Washington field office, said the government would not allow a recurrence of the Jan. 6 mob violence.

“Our democracy is built upon the rule of law,” Miller said at the press conference.

Their opinions were largely shared by persons passing outside the temporary barriers erected around the Capitol and major monuments.

Jake Gluck, 23, a web developer from the District of Columbia, told The Well News he had “mixed feelings” about the lockdown.

He recognized the National Guard was trying to protect the community but “so many walls have gone up here in the last year, I don’t know if they’ll ever come down,” he said.

He said he didn’t believe the lockdown interfered with free speech because the protesters were “just reactionary.”

Ethan Winters, 22, a Washington, D.C. resident, was passing near the Capitol on his bike because, “I just wanted to see what’s going on.”

“It’s understandable but this amount of deployed force is excessive,” he said.

He added, “It doesn’t bother me.”

Tom Kelly, 58, a substitute school teacher from Brevard County, Fla., said, “I think it’s necessary. They want to make sure there’s a peaceful transition.”

He also did not envision a problem with First Amendment free speech rights of protesters by the heavy security.

“Obviously it stops it but I think there’s a necessity for it,” he said.

In The News

Hoyer Calls for 'Modernizing' House Approach to Staff Pay, Benefits
Congress
Hoyer Calls for 'Modernizing' House Approach to Staff Pay, Benefits
April 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told a Select Committee on Thursday that it's high time Congress was brought into alignment with the best practices of the private sector when it comes to employee recruitment and retention. Appearing before the House Select Committee on the... Read More

US Must Increase Pipeline to Face Cybersecurity ‘Cold War’
In The News
US Must Increase Pipeline to Face Cybersecurity ‘Cold War’
April 16, 2021
by Victoria Turner

The U.S. may be facing or even in the midst of a cybersecurity “cold war,” said Dr. Mark Hagerott, chancellor of North Dakota University System, at a West Governors’ Association event entitled, “Solving the Cyber Workforce and Skills Shortage.” On the heels of the White House... Read More

35 States at Extreme Risk of Partisan Gerrymandering
In The States
35 States at Extreme Risk of Partisan Gerrymandering
April 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

Thirty-five states are at extreme or high risk of partisan gerrymandering, according to an in-depth report by the nonpartisan RepresentUs organization. The Gerrymandering Threat Index rates all 50 states, and its authors argue their findings underscore the urgent need to pass the redistricting reforms within the... Read More

Virginia Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility to All Adults
In The States
Virginia Expands COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility to All Adults
April 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

RICHMOND -- The Commonwealth of Virginia is expanding eligibility to get a COVID-19 vaccine to anyone 16 or older, beginning Sunday. The expansion of eligibility comes as Virginia reaches a new milestone in its vaccination program— approximately half of all adults in the Commonwealth have received... Read More

New Guidance Issued on COVID Relief State and Local Governments
Treasury
New Guidance Issued on COVID Relief State and Local Governments
April 16, 2021
by TWN Staff

WASHINGTON - The Treasury Department has released updated guidance on its pre-award requirements for state and local governments to receive direct coronavirus relief payments under the American Rescue Plan Act. It particular the guidance outlines the “immediate” steps municipalities need to take to get in line... Read More

Disease Experts Look to the End Of Pandemic But Aren't Sure When
Health
Disease Experts Look to the End Of Pandemic But Aren't Sure When
April 16, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- As the U.S. death toll reached 564,000 from COVID-19, the nation’s top disease experts said Thursday normal life will return for Americans only when enough of them get vaccinated. But with more than 70,000 new infections daily, they could not predict for Congress when... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top