President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday is expected to draw protesters to the Washington, DC area, including a demonstration on the National Mall.
A tall fence surrounds parts of the grounds of the United States Capitol, and other efforts to restrict access include trucks and plows blocking streets.
Chris Rodriguez, DC’s director of homeland security, told News4 that the State of the Union should continue safely.
The National Park Service has approved a permit for a protest near the Sylvan Theater, an outdoor venue near the Washington Monument.
A small number of attendees on Tuesday afternoon listened to a speaker. A banner citing support for “our God-given rights” and “end of terms” hung on the stage.
Kyle Sefcik, who filed the permit for the protest, said he hoped hundreds to a few thousand people would gather to protest the COVID-19-related mandates.
Michael Letts is the organizer of the rally and a convoy of truckers who announced plans to demonstrate near DC on Tuesday. He said a “peaceful and constitutional” event was planned.
The US Capitol is fenced, security is on alert and roads will be closed as authorities prepare for a protest and President Biden’s State of the Union address tonight in Washington DC’s Juliana Valencia reports News4.
Letts’ group had announced plans to leave Hagerstown, Maryland, on Tuesday and travel to DC. Organizers encouraged drivers to join the protest on the National Mall. It is unclear how many vehicles are participating or whether the convoy will impact traffic.
Rodriguez said a larger group of truckers who were apparently swayed by a protest that disrupted trade across the Canada-U.S. border shouldn’t disrupt the State of the Union.
“The latest information we have is that truckers shouldn’t be here for the State of the Union,” Rodriguez said. “Some of their movement across the country has slowed down.”
Hundreds of National Guard members have been deployed to help with traffic control, NBC Washington reported.
Law enforcement officials say they do not foresee any serious problems with possible protests.
News4’s Shomari Stone explains what local and federal security forces are preparing for.
Heightened security around the United States Capitol
While there are no specific or credible threats related to President Biden’s speech, law enforcement officials are taking no chances following the events of January 6, 2021, when a violent mob surprised the District of Columbia and managed to storm the US Capitol, briefly disrupting certification of Biden’s 2020 presidential victory.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said Sunday the fence was being erected on Capitol grounds “out of an abundance of caution.”
The State of the Union address is designated as a “special national security event,” which paves the way for communication, funding, and preparedness among multiple agencies in Washington, including the Capitol Police, the Pentagon, Homeland Security and District Police. Other such events are the Super Bowl and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The US Secret Service is in charge of the event.
Investigators have been monitoring the online chatter, which includes a range of general threats against elected officials, but there are no specific or credible threats against the event, officials said.
Metropolitan Police Department chief Robert Contee said his department is closely monitoring changing information and will dedicate additional police services to a state of heightened alert over the coming weeks.
Road closures planned for the State of the Union
Authorities have released a list of road closures that will begin on Tuesday. They said these are the same road closures the US Capitol Police have had in the past and are not related to potential convoys of trucks and vehicles.
The following streets will be closed to traffic as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday:
- East Capitol Street between Second Street NE/SE and First Street NE/SE
- Constitution Avenue between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
- D Street between Second Street NE and First Street NE
- First Street between Constitution Avenue NE and Independence Avenue SE
- New Jersey Avenue between C Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
- First Street between Louisiana Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
- Pennsylvania Avenue between First Street NW and Third Street NW
- Maryland Avenue between First Street SW and Third Street SW
- Independence Avenue between Washington Avenue SW and Second Street SE
The following streets will be closed to traffic as of 7 p.m. Tuesday:
- Second Street from Constitution Avenue NE to East Capitol Street NE/SE
- First Street from Columbus Circle to D Street NE
- Delaware Avenue from Columbus Circle to D Street NE
- D Street from First Street NE to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Louisiana Avenue from C Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
- First Street from C Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Constitution Avenue from Third Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
- Independence Avenue from Third Street SW to Washington Avenue SW
- Washington Avenue from Independence Avenue SW to Second Street SW
Metro warns Metrobus riders of possible delays
Metro advised Metrobus riders that detours and delays in downtown DC are possible Tuesday evening.
“Customers should avoid the area if possible and are encouraged to use Metrorail as an alternative,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Metro has listed these 36 Metrobus lines that may be affected:
3F, 3Y, 5A, 16E, 16Y, 31, 32, 33, 36, 38B, 42, 43, 52, 54, 59, 63, 64, 70, 74, 79, 80, 96, D4, D6, D8, G8, L2, N2, N4, N6, P6, S2, S9, X2, X8, X9