D.C. pleads for low attendance, federal help as tense Inauguration Day approaches

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Leaders in the Washington region urged all Americans to stay away from the nation's capital Jan. 20.
"If I'm scared of anything it's for our democracy," D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a Monday news conference, responding to a reporter who asked if she feared what might happen on Inauguration Day. "Because we have factions in our country . . . that are armed and dangerous."

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Bowser, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) held a joint call on Monday to discuss planning for the 59th presidential inauguration and agreed to discourage all in-person attendance in the interest of public safety.

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Hours after Bowser addressed the public, acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf extended the National Special Security Event (NSSE) period to begin Wednesday instead of Jan. 19. A NSSE designation allows the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work together to secure certain areas that may be targets for violence.

Over the weekend, Bowser had sent a letter to Wolf asking him to start the NSSE period on Monday and coordinate with other federal agencies to "establish a security and federal force deployment plan for all federal property."

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Shortly after announcing the NSSE expansion, Wolf resigned, citing several court rulings challenging the validity of his appointment to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The right-wing groups threatening to amass before and during the inauguration are different from the protesters the city normally welcomes, Bowser said.

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One online post cited by Alethea Group, an anti-disinformation organization, has called for an "ARMED MARCH ON CAPITOL HILL & ALL STATE CAPITOLS." Others have discussed a "Million Militia March" on Inauguration Day.

An FBI memo to law enforcement agencies across the country warned that "armed protests" were being planned "at all 50 state capitols" and in D.C. leading up to the inauguration, an official familiar with the matter,…
Emily Davies
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