WASHINGTON — Following an insurrection at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman is calling for permanent fencing and back-up security at the Capitol to prevent another riot.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman said.
Over the last few weeks, U.S. Capitol Police in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Department have been reviewing the events of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and assessing the overall security of the Capitol building.
“Upon becoming the Acting Chief on Jan. 8, 2021, I immediately directed my staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol Complex," Pittman said.
Information on the height or type of fencing was not immediately released in Pittman's statement. While Pittman is asking for the permanent fencing and security measures to be in place, nothing has been decided yet as it's ultimately a congressional decision.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke out against the permanent security measures Thursday in a series of tweets, saying the city would not accept fencing and troops as a long-term fixture.
"When the time is right, the fencing around the White House and U.S. Capitol, just like the plywood we’ve seen on our businesses for too long, will be taken down," Bowser tweeted. "We look forward to working with Congresswoman Norton on not only ensuring continued public access to the Capitol, but also preventing any proposed security installations from intruding into our local neighborhoods."
On Tuesday, security officials briefed members of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations on the events of Jan. 6 on Capitol Hill. In the closed-door hearing, Acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett said federal authorities should work to “harden” the security perimeter of the complex.
“Too many access points were breached on January 6 and the speaker has tasked Lt., Gen. Russel Honore, to review Capitol security to help us turn these lessons into action,” he said.
Following that same hearing, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told reporters the perimeter around the Capitol Building complex will likely move.
“Again, it's going to be some time before any major decision is made on that,” he said. “But there's probably a very good chance that the perimeter of the Capitol is moved outward. I would assume it would be outside of the office buildings.”
The union representing Capitol Police officers issued a scathing rebuke of department leadership Wednesday – calling the failure to prepare for potential violence on Jan. 6 “unconscionable.”
The letter comes in response to testimony by Pittman during Tuesday's closed-door session of the House Appropriations Committee. That testimony included an acknowledgment that the department’s leadership was aware that militia groups and white supremacists would be attending, and that “there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”
Pittman was appointed as the acting police chief for the Capitol nearly two days after the Capitol riots when the previous chief, Steven A. Sund, stepped down.
Five people lost their lives and dozens were injured when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Two police officers have also died by suicide in the weeks following the attack.
Thousands of Trump supporters surrounded the U.S. Capitol following a rally on the National Mall to protest unfounded claims of election fraud in which the President told the crowd to “fight like hell”, and that if they didn’t they were “not going to have a country anymore.”
The mob forced its way in while a joint session of Congress led by Vice President Mike Pence was being held to certify the electoral college vote, confirming Joe Biden’s presidency. The rioters smashed windows, pushed back police lines and scaled the walls of the Capitol, gaining entry as far as the House and Senate Chambers where the historic vote had been happening just minutes before.
The looters ransacked offices of leaders like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and damaged or stole property throughout the complex.
The building was locked down for more than 4 hours, key members of the government were ushered away by armed security to safe locations while other Congressmen and women and their aides barricaded in their offices, fearful for their safety.
More than a dozen people have been charged with federal crimes, but the FBI is still working to identify many other rioters. Anyone with tips can call 1-800- 225-5324 or submit images or videos at fbi.gov/USCapitol.