WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers are receiving urgent security instructions in advance of potential violence in Washington tied to Wednesday’s joint session of Congress to count Electoral College votes, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The precautions distributed Monday to members of the House and Senate include guidance to use underground tunnels while traveling between chambers in the Capitol and to nearby office buildings during the day, the person said, asking not to be named as the information isn’t public.
President Donald Trump has urged public protests to help pressure lawmakers to reject the Electoral College vote sealing Joe Biden’s victory. Washington’s mayor urged residents not to engage with any protesters “seeking confrontation,” and some downtown businesses have boarded up windows to guard against violence.
The instructions to lawmakers also provide emergency phone numbers for Capitol police and House and Senate sergeants-at-arms to report any incidents or issues. Lawmakers are encouraged to arrive at the Capitol early on Wednesday, and told they should make use of garages with barricades and security access points, according to the person familiar with the matter.
Lawmakers were also receiving a rundown of extensive road closures around the Capitol and elsewhere in Washington.
“See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, apparently hoping for a big turnout of people supporting his unproven claim that voter fraud was behind his defeat by Biden.
So-called First Amendment demonstrations are permitted by the National Park Service, but officials are preparing for potential unrest. Mayor Muriel Bowser has asked city residents not to come downtown or to the Capitol area on Tuesday and Wednesday. Under her direction, the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency on Monday activated the district’s Emergency Operations Center, to coordinate federal and local responses to the demonstrations.
“We will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful,” Bowser said in a Sunday statement.
Pro-Trump protests in November and December in Washington and some other cities ended in violence and property damage. Some far-right protest groups, such as the Proud Boys, have said they will show up for the demonstrations this week.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police Department begins its full activation for responses through Wednesday. Washington starting on Tuesday will ban street parking along some avenues.
On Monday morning, workers were seen outside some downtown businesses boarding-up windows and doors.