D.C. leaders warned those who plan to attend this week’s protests in support of President Donald Trump not to bring guns to the District and said the National Guard would be on hand to assist police.
“Of course, people are allowed to come into our city to participate in First Amendment activities. And they will be mindful of the laws of the District of Columbia,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Monday.
“We will not allow people to incite violence, intimidate our residents or cause destruction in our city,” she added.
Signs about D.C.’s gun laws have been posted throughout the downtown area.
“Anyone in violation of the posted signs, anyone in violation of District of Columbia law, will be arrested,” said acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. “So, I want to be very clear about that because we have received some information that there are individuals intent on bringing firearms into our city and that just will not be tolerated.”
He said that he wants anyone who sees someone at the rallies carrying a gun or trying to conceal a gun to call police.
And Contee said D.C.’s gun laws apply to everyone, including Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who released a viral ad where she showed off her Glock handgun and swore to carry it at the U.S. Capitol.
“We plan to reach out to the congresswoman’s office to make sure that she is aware of what the laws of the District of Columbia are, what the restrictions are,” Contee said.
DC street closures, parking restrictions
Police are closing a multitude of streets this week for the rallies.
The restrictions are concentrated around the White House and parts of the National Mall on Tuesday and Wednesday.
See the full list of no-parking zones and street closures here.
National Guard response
The National Guard will be assisting D.C. police starting Tuesday and “throughout the life cycle of this event,” according to Contee.
“They will be here. They will be deployed to assist us with crowd management, as well as traffic control in our nation’s capital, that will allow for the police officers to focus on anyone who’s intent on instigating, agitating or participating in violence in our city, again, unacceptable and we will not tolerate that. So the National Guard will be assisting us in our efforts, as well.”
The Associated Press reported that Bowser put in a request on New Year’s Eve to have National Guard members on the streets from Tuesday through Thursday to help with the protests, according to a U.S. defense official. The source told AP that Guard members will be used to set up traffic control points around D.C. and to stand with police officers at all Metro stops.
Police presence will be ramped up near downtown churches as well.
The Asbury United Methodist Church told WTOP that they asked D.C. police to increase presence and surveillance. The church was one of two historically Black churches that had Black Lives Matter banners burned by members of the far-right extremist Proud Boys during protests last month.
The Proud Boys, who clashed with counterprotesters earlier in December in a night of violence that left four stabbed, have vowed to be present in D.C. for both Wednesday’s rally, the same day Congress is set to tally each state’s electoral votes, as well as the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Contee said, “It is a very real possibility” that police close off Black Lives Matter Plaza across from the White House.
“Again, it could be very much a game-day assessment. Right now, with some of the intelligence that we’re looking at, we want to make sure that we’re in a posture, certainly, prepared to do that, if need be,” Contee said.
Bowser did not rule out enacting a curfew during the planned protests. “It’s certainly a tool that we will evaluate during the week,” she said.
Bowser added that there is “a serious threat to our democracy right now.”
In a statement, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said many of the people involved “have stated that they are coming to the District to provoke residents and wreak havoc.”
“The Office of the Attorney General, in coordination with the Metropolitan Police Department, the Council, and the Mayor will closely monitor their activities and do everything in our power to hold them accountable should they break District laws,” Racine said. “That includes illegally carrying firearms within 1,000 feet of these demonstrations, which will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
“We will also act to ensure that those who operate businesses or live downtown—particularly our residents experiencing homelessness —do not suffer harm.”
More details on this week’s pro-Trump protests
National Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst said the agency processed First Amendment applications this week.
A permit was issued for the “Rally to Revival,” headed by the Eighty Percent Coalition, at Freedom Plaza on Tuesday. The all-day event expects 5,000 participants.
Another permit was issued for the “Women for America First” for Wednesday, for an estimated 30,000 participants. According to the organizer, it is conducting a “First Amendment rally ‘March for Trump’ to demand transparency and protect election integrity,” despite claims of voter fraud being widely debunked. Expected speakers include Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani.
The Women for America First event is planned for the Ellipse, south of the National Tree Lighting area.
A permit for Tuesday and Wednesday for “The Silent Majority” has also been approved, Litterst said. The permit says the event will feature a “static rally” and doesn’t involve any marches. Between 250 and 500 people are expected.
The mayor’s calls for D.C. residents to “stay out of the downtown area on Tuesday and Wednesday, and not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation” have been met with criticism online.
Uhh … you know people work and live downtown, right? What’s your plan to keep them safe? Cuz “don’t go downtown” ain’t cutting it. https://t.co/mI5slqIn6H
— ShutDownDC (@ShutDown_DC) January 4, 2021
Black Lives Matter DC tweeted that signs saying guns aren’t allowed wouldn’t do anything to stop firearms from being brought into the District.
Someone need to tell @MayorBowser & Acting Chief Contee that white supremacists don’t care about signs that say guns are not allowed. Stationing police officers in front of churches didn’t stop them from burning signs last time.
Here are our demands to send a clear message: pic.twitter.com/GRhJtYGnwK
— Black Lives Matter DC (@DMVBlackLives) January 4, 2021
Thousands are anticipated to turn out for the rallies in support of Trump, who continues to claim that voter fraud is why he lost the presidential election to President-elect Joe Biden. Those claims have been debunked. No widespread fraud was found, which a range of election officials across the country, including former Attorney General William Barr, have confirmed as such.
Republican governors in Arizona and Georgia — key battleground states crucial to Biden’s victory — have also vouched for the integrity of the elections in their states.
Nearly all the legal challenges from Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges, including two tossed by the Supreme Court, which includes three Trump-nominated justices.
There is an effort in Congress to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which has led to current and former GOP officials warning that the move to sow doubt in Biden’s win and keep Trump in office is undermining Americans’ faith in democracy.
Trump has enlisted support from a dozen Republican senators and up to 100 House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College vote when Congress convenes in a joint session to tally Biden’s 306-232 win.
And, on a call disclosed Sunday, Trump can be heard pressuring Georgia officials to “find” him more votes.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said, “The scheme by members of Congress to reject the certification of the presidential election makes a mockery of our system and who we are as Americans.”
Any vote to overturn the results is likely doomed to fail, but the convening of the joint session to count the Electoral College votes has faced objections before. In 2017, several House Democrats challenged Trump’s win, but Biden, who presided at the time as the vice president, swiftly dismissed them to assert Trump’s victory.
WTOP’s Jack Moore and Teta Alim, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.