National Guard troops poured into the nation’s capital on Saturday, as governors answered the urgent pleas of U.S. defense officials for more troops to help safeguard Washington even as they keep anxious eyes on possible violent protests in their own states.
Military leaders spent chunks of Thursday evening and Friday calling states in an unprecedented appeal for more National Guard troops to help lock down much of the city in the days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In dribs and drabs, governors responded, some agreeing to send an extra dozen, 100 or even 1,000, while others said no.
The threats range from armed insurgents to possible attempts to plant explosive devices at so-called soft targets.
But as Washington begins to resemble an armed camp, with more than 25,000 Guard due in the city, concerns about violence at state capitals has grown.
The National Park Service has closed Washington’s National Mall to the general public as part of greatly intensified security ahead of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration.
The closure started Friday morning. It will remain in force at least through Thursday, the day after Biden’s inauguration, the National Park Service said in a statement.
The Secret Service asked for the closing.
The park service will still allow inauguration activities and permitted free-speech events on the National Mall despite the closure, it said.
The park service said it would allow only small demonstrations for permit holders and would escort any protesters and hold them in designated areas, along with other safety measures.
National Park Service and Interior Department spokespeople did not immediately respond when asked if any protest permits had been granted or applied for.
The FBI is warning of the potential for more bloodshed. In an internal bulletin issued Sunday, the bureau warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks.
Defense Department officials are scrambling to call governors and asking whether they have any more National Guard troops they can send to Washington to help protect the Capitol and the city.
U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The threat is prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event.