Security boost for Trump's swearing-in as protests loom

Above: Members of the US military practise marching for Friday's inauguration parade in Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. Left: Street posters calling for protests are seen in the Dupont Circle area of Washington.
Members of the US military practise marching for Friday's inauguration parade in Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: Members of the US military practise marching for Friday's inauguration parade in Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. Left: Street posters calling for protests are seen in the Dupont Circle area of Washington.
Street posters calling for protests are seen in the Dupont Circle area of Washington.

WASHINGTON • The first visible signs of security measures for Friday's US presidential inauguration will soon be evident in the nation's capital, transforming it into a virtual fortress of roadblocks, fences and armed police.

Parking restrictions begin tomorrow in the District of Columbia's downtown. Streets will start closing on Thursday and will be barricaded with trucks filled with sand. Five Metro stations will close on Friday. And crossing Pennsylvania Avenue, where the inauguration parade will pass, will be next to impossible.

The peaceful transfer of power will be made possible by overlaying a tight security grid using 28,000 security officials over 100 blocks of prime downtown real estate - from the White House to the Capitol and beyond.

An estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people are expected to watch Mr Donald Trump become the 45th US President.

Security officials said 63 demonstration groups, on both sides, are expected on Friday, and an additional 36 on other days. Those include groups with permits and others which have signalled participation through social media.

More protesters are anticipated this year, coming off a polarising campaign and reflecting divisions evident across the nation.

  • 28k
    Number of security officials to be deployed over a 100-block area.

    3k
    Number of police officers needed to be brought in from across the US.

    5k
    Number of National Guard troops needed, bolstering Washington's large law-enforcement footprint.

To accomplish a tranquil event amid worries of terror attacks and threats by some groups to disrupt the inauguration requires bringing in 3,000 police officers from across the nation and 5,000 members of the National Guard, bolstering the already large law-enforcement footprint in Washington.

The security numbers this year are the same as in years past. The authorities said it makes little difference whether the Secret Service is protecting Mr Trump, known for unpredictable behaviour, or someone more apt to follow established customs.

They dismissed notions that protecting Mr Trump might be more difficult given his unique personality and the variety of people and groups he has angered.

"A lot of people think it's different because of the individual," said Mr Jonathan Wackrow, a retired Secret Service agent who worked on President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2013 and now runs a security consulting group called RANE. "It's very much the threat level as a whole."

For the most part, police say they will do what they always have done for such events: snipers on rooftops, boat restrictions in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, manhole covers welded shut; light poles removed, trash cans and mailboxes hauled away and multilevel perimeters established along the parade route and viewing areas, with metal detectors and bag checks.

District officials said officers from local and federal agencies are prepared for any unrest. "We expect people to exercise their rights peacefully, and we will be prepared for anybody who chooses not to," said District of Columbia mayor Muriel Bowser.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'Security boost for Trump's swearing-in as protests loom'. Print Edition | Subscribe