On the eve of what is know as a ‘peaceful transition of power,’ cities around America are preparing for protests amid Donald J. Trump’s inauguration.
Law enforcement officials are in the final stages of sealing off a heavily fortified Capitol region and the historic National Mall as they prepare for the protests it is expected to attract.
The Capitol is not the only site where law enforcement officers are preparing to serve and protect. Cities such as Los Angeles, Portland and New York … as well as many others … are seeing an increased law enforcement presence.
“We’ve got to be vigilant, we’ve got to plan, we’ve got to prepare,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, told reporters during a briefing last week.
A protest group known as Disrupt J20 has vowed to stage demonstrations at each of 12 security checkpoints and block access to the festivities on the grassy National Mall.
According to security experts, police say they will do what they always have done for such events: snipers on rooftops, boat restrictions in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, manhole covers welded shut; light poles removed, trash cans and mailboxes hauled away and multilevel perimeters established along the parade route and viewing areas at the U.S. Capital, with metal detectors and bag checks.
In California, the LA Times reports the LAPD has issued five permits for protests around the downtown area Friday morning, and police anticipate other unauthorized events could also arise.
A women’s rights march planned for Saturday, in conjunction with a similar event in Washington, will also likely draw a throng of protesters to the streets.
LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore said he considers arrests a “last resort” when handling protests. He said he hopes better communication between police and protesters can help keep people out of handcuffs, but he warned that could change if pockets of the crowds grow unruly.
“It really is pretty simple: When people start vandalizing cars or other property, that’s not going to be facilitated,” Moore said.
In Washington, Johnson said peaceful protests are expected … but they must remain peaceful.
He said that demonstrators could reach the parade route by going through security checks and leaving prohibited items behind. “Peaceful demonstrations are certainly permitted as long as they aren’t violent,” he said. But Johnson stressed, “Special precautions are being taken to ensure that the official event cannot be disrupted.”
In Portland, police officers have canceled days off and have completed additional training.
The Oregonian reports police also hope recent training improves officer logistics in the field, from how to pair with a partner to put on gas masks, clean and clear out masks if they’re donned too late and how to best hand off arrests to detectives for preparation for court.
“I figured it would be prudent between the last protest events after the presidential election and this Friday to put the officers through some refresher training,” Police Chief Mike Marshman said Tuesday.
“Even though they’ve had training in the past, a lot of folks, especially on patrol haven’t really experienced such large crowds. This was to help them become more comfortable because fortunately, it’s not a day-to-day occurrence.”
In Washington, Secret Service, police and federal officers are preparing for the worst, although they are supportive of everyone’s right to participate in peaceful protests. WKBW in Buffalo, NY, reports that peace officers will be flexible, but will not tolerate harm to people or property.
“There seems to be a lot more focus on this one because of all of the attention around it, and the politics,” said Paul Abbate, assistant director in charge for the Washington FBI field office. “But that’s not our business and we aren’t concerned with that. We go about the work we do, security, safety and protecting people.”
Both representatives for the FBI and Secret Service were quick to mention their plans included strong support for attendee’s rights to protest.
“We are looking at an intel standpoint at anyone who seeks to come in and commit a crime, cause harm, hurt people, commit acts of violence, do anything unlawful. We are on the look out for that to prevent anything from happening. But that’s where it stops. Peaceful protests, the right for people to express themselves, we completely support that,” Abbate said.
The Washington Post reports that along with D.C. police, the city is bringing in 3,000 additional law enforcement officers to work the parade route. Also 5,000 National Guardsmen will be in town unarmed and watching over the route. A spokesperson for the Secret Service would not comment on the number of officers who will be working that day.
Threats are real and no one person can anticipate every scenario. America’s new president will be protected and the crowd will be controlled … while at the same being treated will full respect. Due to the efforts of countless law enforcement officials and first responders, supporters of President Trump should be able to enjoy the historic event without safety or security concerns. Those who do not enjoy the same enthusiasm for the incoming Commander-in-Chief will also have the same, safe platform to stage their protests.