The inauguration of the nation’s 46th president on Jan. 20 will be unlike any other in U.S. history with the gleam of the nation’s capital overshadowed by clouds left by the nation’s 45th president.
Already the transition from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden is being met in downtown D.C. with boarded-up buildings, blocked streets and the threat of violence.
“Avoid the downtown area and especially avoid people who are coming here to look for confrontations,” D.C. Muriel Bowser said Jan. 3.
She enhanced the warning Jan. 5 in a letter to Trump administration officials indicating that in anticipation of pro-Trump demonstrations, the D.C. police will be augmented by unarmed members of the D.C. National Guard amid the threat of demonstrations by Trump supporters Jan. 6.
“It is not a very good feeling, completely, as a small business,” said business owner Manish Kansal.
Kansal manages Barmy Wines & Liquors, one of the many businesses shielded in plywood downtown. Kansal told NBC 4, “Being boarded up, we feel there is a loss of business for sure because people who walk around think the business is closed.”
Bowser and the police expect an even larger crowd than at the past two pro-Trump events late last year. On Monday night, D.C. police already blocked people from driving down H Street near Black Lives Matter Plaza. The mayor said earlier in the day that she isn’t ruling out implementing a curfew, if necessary.
Bowser’s office has also issued a reminder that the District’s gun laws forbid possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a demonstration and guns are illegal on U.S. Capitol and National Park Service grounds, including Freedom Plaza and the National Mall, according to MSN News.
On Monday D.C. police arrested the leader of the alt-right extremist group Proud Boys shortly after he arrived in the city for this week’s pro-Trump demonstrations, charging him with the theft and burning of a Black Lives Matter banner from a historically Black church during another rally last month in protest of President Trump’s loss in the November election.
Enrique Tarrio, who identifies himself as Afro Cuban, was taken into custody shortly after arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Jan. 4, according to a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department that is preparing for massive protest by right-wing groups.
Bowser activated the city’s emergency command center and mobilized the national guard prior to Wednesday’s protests that police said. could turn violent.
“No one has the right to violate the law by bringing in a weapon, by destroying property or by antagonizing other people,” Bowser that comes at the start of a week where there are several planned rallies in protest of Congress’ expected certification of the Electoral College’s results Wednesday.
Tarrio has been charged with a single misdemeanor count of destruction of property in connection with the vandalism of the banner from Asbury United Methodist Church and was released from police custody Tuesday with a directive to remain outside the city.
Tarrio was also in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines at the time of his arrest and subsequently charged with possession of a high-capacity feeding device, authorities said.
Asbury was one of two Black churches, along with Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, that had its Black Lives Matter banner desecrated during the Dec. 12 demonstrations, in which thousands of Trump supporters converged on downtown D.C. to protest President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election.
Participants clashed with counterprotesters during the protests, which resulted in four stabbings and 33 arrests.
The Proud Boys chairman willfully claimed responsibility in the following days for setting one of the banners on fire, though he said he was uncertain which one it was. He denied that his actions were fueled by racism or religion, however.
Tarrio’s arrest came the same day that the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against Tarrio and the Proud Boys, blaming the group for the vandalism.
“White supremacists like the Proud Boys would rather see the country burn than to see it united together under justice and freedom for all,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which supported the church’s suit. “Black churches and other religious institutions have a long and ugly history of being targeted by white supremacists in racist and violent attacks meant to intimidate and create fear.
“Our lawsuit aims to hold those who engage in such action accountable,” Clarke said. “We are proud to represent Metropolitan A.M.E. which has a long history of standing against bigotry and hate and whose courage and determination to fight back is a beacon of hope for the community.”
Rev. Ianther Mills, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, the oldest African American church in the District, told The Informer in the days following the Dec. 12 incident, “They tore down our sign and burned it in the streets but we will put a bigger sign to fight for justice and create the beloved community.”
But after Mills and church officials replaced the banner, it was again vandalized and torn down.