After rioters attacked the Capitol, D.C. residents adapt to the imposing security measures that have taken over their home.
Some residents on Capitol Hill have rallied behind the thousands of National Guard members stationed nearby, bringing them wagons full of snacks and hot coffee to express gratitude for their service. Other locals have gone to great lengths to avoid the encampment, saying the presence of armed troops and fencing topped with razor wire makes them feel even more on edge in their own neighborhood.
The polarizing positions have laid bare the personal toll that the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol has taken on D.C. residents who have to live with the aftermath of the insurrection and the militarization of their home.
“This is our land, and many of us are attached to this land because it’s made us who we are,” said Anthony Lorenzo Green, a Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commission representative who remembers visiting D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) in the U.S. Capitol when he was 7-years-old. “Now we have the feeling of being occupied.”
The heightened security measures are not going away anytime soon. More than 9,500 National Guard members from 19 states were on duty in D.C. on Wednesday, officials said. While that number will fall below 6,000 by mid-March, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson has said the Guard’s presence in Washington is expected to endure.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has requested that 500 locally-based troops remain activated through March 12 for the upcoming impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, President Biden’s February speech to Congress and potential extremist activity March 4. And U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday proposed permanent fencing around the Capitol and “the availability of ready, backup forces” in proximity. The controversial recommendation immediately drew condemnation from D.C. officials and members of Congress.
[D.C. requests support from 500 members of D.C. National Guard through March 12]
This new militarized normal in the District, and in particular on Capitol Hill, has forced locals to interact with soldiers on a daily basis. Camouflage-clad troops are not only stationed at checkpoints along almost all major roads near federal buildings, but they have also become regulars at area pizza joints and coffee shops.
Since arriving in D.C., Sgt. Travin Moore, an artillery crewman in the Kansas National Guard, has toured the Capitol building, stood underneath the Washington Monument and swung by Target for the essentials — workout sweats and a pair of headphones — when he has not been stationed outside the Library of Congress with an M4 rifle strapped across his chest. Thomas Warth, a lieutenant colonel also with the Kansas National Guard, sat outside Le Bon Café on Second Street SE Wednesday afternoon with a cup of coffee and a club sandwich.