Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York voiced her opposition Thursday to a proposed permanent fence around the U.S. Capitol, saying it is “the People’s House.”
Many others who live and work in the area are also reportedly opposed to the plan.
In a Thursday news release, Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman called for permanent fencing to surround the Capitol and for back-up security in the event of another riot like the one that occurred on Jan. 6.
“Upon becoming the Acting Chief on January 8, 2021, I immediately directed my staff to conduct a physical security assessment of the entire Capitol Complex,” Pittman said.
“This assessment is in addition to the USCP’s Inspector General’s review of the events of January 6, 2021, and the third-party review of the Complex’s physical infrastructure, processes, and command and control being conducted at the behest of Speaker Pelosi by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré.”
Pittman said the goal of all of these reviews is to prevent another Jan. 6-like incursion into the Capitol.
She also referenced a 2006 security assessment, which recommended installing a permanent perimeter fence.
“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.
“I look forward to working with Congress on identifying the security improvements necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Congress and the U.S. Capitol,” she added.
Stefanik conveyed her disapproval of a permanent fence, tweeting, “This is the People’s House.”
“I am adamantly opposed,” she continued. “There has been no threat briefing given to Members of Congress to justify this proposal.”
This is the People’s House.
I am adamantly opposed. There has been no threat briefing given to Members of Congress to justify this proposal. https://t.co/4YzVRuD85b
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 28, 2021
Stefanik, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also wants an explanation why there are plans to leave at least 5,000 National Guard troops through mid-March.
She signed onto a Jan. 27 letter, along with 10 of her Republican House colleagues, to acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley requesting a threat assessment briefing regarding the U.S. Capitol Complex.
“Our intention is for the briefing to cover the ongoing threats to the Capitol, justification of the decision for a significant troop presence through mid- March, and plans for troop utilization during the time period,” the House members wrote.
“The National Guard should be used as an option of absolute last resort. We are seeking clarification and justification on behalf of the National Guard men and women that have kept us safe over the past month and year,” they added.
WUSA-TV reporter John Henry tweeted on Thursday that many people who live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood do not want a permanent fence, including Washington, D.C., Democratic council member Charles Allen.
.@CapitolPolice have made it known… the department wants a permanent fence set up around the Capitol Building. It’s worth noting… many people who live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood do not. Here’s @charlesallen yesterday on the issue. (@wusa9) https://t.co/JMmJeLzYLT pic.twitter.com/bSJvWcDRSQ
— John Henry (@JohnHenryWUSA) January 28, 2021
Allen — who represents Ward 6, which includes part of Capitol Hill — said, “Our neighborhoods go right up next to the Capitol.”
“The Capitol is part of our community,” he added. “It’s the front yard for many people. It’s a public space that we enjoy.”
The security failures of Jan. 6 should not “become an excuse to just harden the perimeter blocks and blocks out and take away the People’s House from the people,” Allen said.
“They’re building a fortress to keep the people out, and I don’t think that’s right.”
NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt agreed with Allen’s concerns.
“There’s no question the failure to establish a perimeter around the Capitol complex was an enormous (if not the central) failure on Jan. 6,” she tweeted. “But it is worth considering what we stand to symbolically lose by putting up a permanent fence around the People’s House.”
“Right now, the Capitol complex is designed to be accessible to Americans,” Hunt continued. “There is a lawn in the front where local parents take their children to go sledding.”
But even just a fence around the Capitol itself would dramatically change the democratic character of the building, the nature of the surrounding neighborhood and, really, send a stark message to the world about American democracy. (8/)
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) January 28, 2021
The reporter argued that even if the current perimeter of the fencing were shrunk down to encircling the Capitol itself, it would “dramatically change the democratic character of the building, the nature of the surrounding neighborhood and, really, send a stark message to the world about American democracy.”
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