The acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police said the Capitol building needs permanent fencing in place after the Jan. 6 riots inside the federal seat of government.
Yogananda Pittman told members of Congress Tuesday the police “failed” in their efforts to protect the Capitol when fringe rioters stormed the building as lawmakers convened to confirm now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over former President Donald Trump.
“In light of recent events,” Pittman said in a statement, “I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol.”
A former Capitol Police chief said, “There has to be a lot of questions asked and answers given. What is very clear is the police underestimated the violent crowd and the size of it, and they overestimated their ability to control it.”
The U.S. National Guard remained stationed in Washington, D.C., for 30 days after the riot broke out, through Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. In addition, a 7-foot-tall fence has surrounded the Capitol building since the day after the insurrection.
The non-scalable fencing was initially only supposed to remain in place for 30 days, according to former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. But now, there’s a chance it could become permanent, blocking citizens’ access to the seat of their government.
D.C. Council member Charles Allen, a Democrat, said building a perimeter fence would “turn the People’s House into a fortress from the people.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser, also a Democrat, conceded fencing and troops would be part of extra security in the future, but, she continued, the city “will not accept troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture.”
NBC News Correspondent Kasie Hunt argued, “It is worth considering what we stand to lose symbolically by putting up a permanent fence around the People’s House.”
One former D.C. resident expressed the sadness many locals are feeling at the thought of not being able to access the Capitol grounds.
“When I used to live on Capitol Hill,” the ex-resident explained, “one of the greatest perks was I could run right up to the Capitol, look up at the building and appreciate its beauty, and then turn around, and run home. It will be a sad day when permanent fencing makes that no longer possible.”
Rep. Ashley Hinson condemned the proposal as “wrong,” writing, “We serve in the People’s House — we need to be safe, but cutting off access to the Capitol isn’t the answer.”
Rep. Rick Crawford called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to stop the fencing from becoming permanent.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) tweeted, “There has been no threat briefing given to members of Congress to justify this proposal.”
For her part, Pelosi met with retired Gen. Russel Honoré on Thursday to discuss a security review of the Capitol.
“As we consider the need for an emergency supplemental funding bill to meet institutional security needs,” the speaker said, “I want to thank the general for reviewing what is necessary for the Capitol Police to do their jobs.”
As Congress considers the implications and costs of maintaining the fence around the Capitol building, more than 450 miles of steel fencing supplies was abandoned in New Mexico after Biden ordered the end of the southern border wall construction, a project undertaken by the Trump administration.