In the wake of the insurgence at the U.S. Capitol during certification of the Electoral College votes last week and threats of further violence, nearly 400 Washington National Guard soldiers and airmen are being sent to Washington, D.C., for the presidential inauguration.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in on Wednesday.
Already, the number of National Guard troops in the nation’s capital from around the country has grown to about 21,000, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told Vice President Mike Pence at a briefing Thursday.
The soldiers and airmen from Washington state will support their federal partners in roles determined by the lead federal security agencies, the Washington National Guard said Thursday.
Biden and Harris will be sworn in at the same location where the violent, pro-Trump mob descended on the U.S. Capitol, but the two events aren’t comparable from a security standpoint, said Michael Plati, U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge, who is leading the inauguration security.
The inauguration is designated as a “national special security event,” which clears the way for communication, funding and preparation between multiple agencies in Washington, such as the Capitol Police, Pentagon, Homeland Security and District-area police. Other such events are the president’s State of the Union address, the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
Last week’s siege was initially viewed as a free-speech event despite multiple warnings about the potential for violence from right-wing extremist groups.
Egged on by President Donald Trump and his repeated attempts to delegitimize Biden’s win, the violent mob marched from the White House to the Capitol, where they occupied the building for hours to try to stop lawmakers from certifying Biden’s win. Five people died, including a police officer. Two explosive devices were found, but they did not go off.
“I don’t want to use the expression that we’re comparing apples to oranges,” Plati said, but security for the inauguration has been planned for more than a year with contingencies, and anticipation of the possibility of extreme violence.
Biden hasn’t expressed concern about his own security at the inauguration.
“I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” he told reporters Monday. “It is critically important that there’ll be a real serious focus on holding those folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable.”
The 8,000-member Washington National Guard is at the call of Gov. Jay Inslee, who mobilizes and deploys the guard to respond to emergencies. It also can be called upon to serve as part of the nation’s military force.
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.