WASHINGTON — As troops with long guns patrolled a newly erected security fence surrounding much of Capitol Hill on Saturday, some neighbors were pleased by the tougher security presence while others were concerned by the level of force as police and National Guard troops fanned out ahead of possible violent far-right and nationalist rallies Sunday.
Dr. Julia Skapik, 41, who lives near the Capitol, said the stepped-up police activity made her feel safer and sent a strong message to would-be rioters: “There’s no opportunity here, so don’t even try.”
Some of her neighbors had left town, she said, while others had boarded up their homes and moved stray bricks into their backyards, afraid they might be hurled by potential attackers after last week’s deadly insurrection at the Capitol by pro-Trump extremists encouraged by the outgoing president.
“I’d much rather be here, because what the federal government has to muster is much more than the states,” she said.
Standing beside her, neighbor Edna Boone, also a health care worker, said she understood the need to send a message, but was also disturbed by the show of force, unable to sleep as convoys continued to arrive nightly.
“This is unsettling,” said Boone, 57.
The FBI warned law enforcement agencies across the nation last week that right-wing groups planned to stage protests in Washington and state capitals on Sunday. Fliers circulating online have urged people to gather at noon, “armed at your personal discretion.”
On Saturday, Democratic leaders of four congressional committees said they had contacted the FBI and other agencies and opened a review of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol to determine what had been known in advance about threats, whether the information was adequately shared, and whether foreign influence played any role.
Commercial airlines have tracked a recent increase in passengers checking firearms as they travel to the Washington area, according to a bulletin from the Justice Department, and several airlines have announced they will not allow passengers to check in guns.
More than 25,000 National Guard troops have been sent to secure the U.S. Capitol this week. Governors in California and over a half dozen other states have also deployed National Guard troops to protect their state capitals. In Oregon, state legislative leaders delayed a session set to start Tuesday by at least two days, citing security concerns.