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Elissa Silverman, DC City Councilmember, At-Large.

Inauguration Day threat: a DC City Councilmember’s urgency

A call for preparation, accountability, investigations and mayoral control over the National Guard

With Inauguration Day only days away, immediate steps must be taken to prepare. There is an equally important need to investigate the crimes, examine contrasts in police responses and give D.C. the autonomy to protect its citizens from terror. The siege at the Capitol highlighted multiple vulnerabilities in Washington and the need for action. D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman cogently laid out the most important next steps, which we share with you here:

Many of us are still processing feelings of anger and horror after witnessing the violent insurrection by Trump extremists in the U.S. Capitol. These were acts of domestic terrorism, designed to overturn fair and democratic elections and the resulting peaceful transfer of power. For those who work for Congress and who might have been at the Capitol, it is inexcusable you were put at risk for simply doing your job and serving the American people. For everyone else who lives in DC, thank you for complying with both our government’s request to not engage with the extremists and the 6 p.m. curfew.

People and institutions need to be held accountable, both for the homeland security failures that put lives and our democratic process in peril and for the treasonous actions that took place. Many questions need to be answered. I agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call for the resignation of Steven Sund, chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, but further investigation is needed. Video circulating on social media and other reporting raise troubling questions about how rioters were able to access the building and commit terror with little resistance or force.

As a local elected official, I am concerned about the safety and security of our city and what actions I can take.

What happened on the Capitol grounds might have occurred on federal land, but it impacted our entire city.

I am committed to working with Mayor Muriel Bowser, Attorney General Karl Racine, and my DC Council colleagues on both after-action and proactive measures to do everything possible to keep us safe. I am focused on three areas:

First, the District of Columbia needs assurance that federal entities are adequately prepared for the Presidential Inauguration on January 20. What happened Wednesday cannot happen again. There is already chatter on social media being reported by news outlets that Trump extremists plan to return to DC to cause further violence and disruption. Our residents, workers, and institutions such as historically Black churches and other spaces cannot be put at undue risk. Mayor Bowser and Chief Robert Contee of the Metropolitan Police Department need to be able to act swiftly and collaboratively with federal law enforcement to protect our city. It is inexcusable that the Mayor’s request to deploy the DC National Guard to the Capitol grounds languished while rioters terrorized members of Congress, their staff, other workers, and residents.

Spc. Segni Kenea, 547th Transportation Company, D.C. National Guard, patrols during the festivities on July 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Photo: The National Guard

I support the Mayor’s request for Congress to transfer authority to her just like every other state governor has for activation and deployment of the National Guard.

Second, there needs to be a full investigation of what happened Wednesday and prosecution of those responsible for the terrorism. Any federal investigation needs to include participation of the District government, including the DC Office of the Attorney General. The incoming Biden administration and new U.S. Attorney for the District should prioritize taking legal action against those who willfully terrorized our federal legislature and our city.

Third, there needs to be an examination of the stark contrast in federal law enforcement response between Wednesday’s Trump extremists, who were overwhelmingly white, with other organized protests such as the Black Lives Matter marches following the murder of George Floyd. The disparate treatment highlights one of the most troubling issues for our country: that you are judged and policed differently due to the color of your skin. We cannot let this continue in our country at any level of government.

Finally, Wednesday’s events highlighted again the cause of DC Statehood. The great news out of Georgia was overshadowed by events here in DC, but it emboldened me to work harder to make us the 51st state.

A few final requests: Many of those who came to terrorize traveled from out of town but not all. Both local and federal law enforcement agencies have asked for the public’s help in identifying the rioters for arrest and prosecution. The FBI is seeking information on people who were involved in the rioting and is accepting tips and digital media at fbi.gov/USCapitol. DC’s Metropolitan Police Department has released images of rioters at bit.ly/35jFina and is accepting information at 202–727–9099 or by texting 50411. If anyone has information, I strongly encourage you to reach out to either the FBI or MPD.

I will do everything in my power as a local elected official to keep you, your family members, and neighbors safe. Take care and feel free to reach out to me with questions or concerns.

I look forward to seeing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take the oaths of office in a peaceful transition of power on January 20.

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Joel Lawson

Joel Lawson

DC-based public affairs consultant. Fmr: Capitol Hill, Ctr for Partnership Studies; Caring Economy Campaign; Fmr Chair, GenderAction. about.me/joellawson