“We’re going to create a bubble that is safe and secure,” Mr. Plati said.
With far-right extremists continuing to plot on online platforms, one senior Pentagon official called the security situation “unprecedented.”
Another Defense Department official said that law enforcement agencies were planning for any number of possible events, some of them horrific. Worst-case scenarios include snipers targeting inauguration dignitaries, “suicide-type aircraft” entering Washington’s restricted airspace and even remote-powered drones attacking the crowd. The officials said they were particularly worried about multiple active-shooter situations flaring up simultaneously.
Defense Department officials have not made a final decision on whether National Guard troops will be armed; but even if they are initially unarmed, the troops will not be far from their weaponry, the officials said. Troops will be equipped with at least defensive riot gear, like helmets.
“We want our individuals to have the right to self-defense,” General Hokanson said during a news briefing. “If senior leadership determines that that’s the right posture to be in, then that is something we will do.” All of the troops coming to Washington, he said, are bringing their guns with them.
Concerns are not limited to Jan. 20.
Fliers circulated in encrypted WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram groups over the weekend calling for an “armed march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols” at noon Jan. 17. The fliers, which include the instruction to “come armed at your personal discretion,” also appeared on the chat sites Gab and Parler, which have attracted far-right voices. Various local militia groups in states like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan have posted calls on those platforms for their members to come out in force.
Another group, “Let America Hear Us, Roar for Trump,” has requested a permit from the National Park Service for a demonstration of at least 300 people in downtown Washington. The Park Service on Monday shut down tours of the Washington Monument through Jan. 24, citing “credible threats to visitors and park resources.”
Far-right extremist groups continue to plot online. Nearly 400 people had joined a private group online dedicated to what is being billed as the Million Militia March, an event scheduled to take place in Washington on Jan. 20. Commenters have debated bringing baseball bats and body armor.
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