Members of the New York National Guard guard the fence surrounding the U.S. Capitol the day after the House of Representatives voted against President Donald Trump for the second time on January 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
The National Park Service said Friday it would close “core areas” of the National Mall to the public when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in next Wednesday.
The closings of the mall, where thousands of Americans traditionally gather to watch the presidential inaugurations, began at 11 a.m. on Friday and will continue until at least next Thursday, the National Park Service said in a press release.
The decision comes more than a week after a crowd of President Donald Trump’s supporters marched through the park and stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Members of the National Guard have been deployed to the Capitol and other parts of the city as officials fear that further violence and riots could ensue before Biden’s inauguration.
The closings are also taking place amid a massive spike in coronavirus cases. January is well on the way to becoming the deadliest month for the pandemic, which has already killed more than 384,794 people in the United States
The congress committee that planned the inauguration had already announced that it would issue significantly fewer tickets for the event than in previous years in order to curb the spread of the virus.
Spectators at previous inaugurations flooded the mall, which also includes the approximately three-kilometer strip of landscaped public space between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. The size of the crowd became a source of controversy at the start of the Trump administration when then-press secretary Sean Spicer insisted and falsely asserted to White House reporters that “this was the largest audience ever to have a housewarming session”.
However, the controversy leading up to Biden’s inauguration stems from last week’s siege of the Capitol, which temporarily forced a joint congressional session into hiding and resulted in five deaths.
Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in the news release that government agencies “have developed a plan to ensure the safety of our nation’s capital, the residents of the city and the monuments and memorials in the National Mall.”
The National Park Service said it will allow a limited number of demonstrations among pre-screened participants who have permits in closed areas near the US Navy Memorial and John Marshall Park.
The news release stated that the temporary closure “affects all National Park Service properties, monuments and facilities in the areas roughly extending from Constitution Avenue to the northwest, Ohio Drive to the southwest, the Potomac River to the west, and 3rd Street are limited to the east. “
“The area also generally includes President’s Park, including Lafayette Park, the Ellipse and White House Complexes, and the East and West Potomac Parks and the National Park Service areas along Pennsylvania Avenue,” it said in the press release.