There’s yet another national debate afoot about a barrier. Not a wall this time, but a fence — a fence around the U.S. Capitol, the scene of a mob siege on Jan. 6.
Yogananda Pittman, the acting Capitol Police chief, has proposed erecting permanent fencing around the U.S. Capitol, a suggestion that drew immediate condemnation from Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, city officials and some members of Congress, according to the Washington Post.
Seven-foot high steel fencing was placed around the Capitol after the siege. The fencing is not unlike what was placed around the Kenosha County Courthouse following the civil unrest last summer — and again just prior to the announcement on whether Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey would face charges for shooting Jacob Blake. Placement of the fencing at the Capitol was a wise move as investigators worked to determine the extent of organization of the siege and whether further threats were possible.
The fencing also gave added protection for the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony.
But Pittman’s proposal for a permanent fence is drawing ire from many who think a fence around the Capitol would not convey the message of an open democracy that the United States has championed since its founding in the late 18th Century. The Capitol has long been viewed as a beacon of liberty and freedom.
“This is the People’s House. I am adamantly opposed,” tweeted Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. “There has been no threat briefing given to Members of Congress to justify this proposal.”
Some opposed to the fencing say what happened on Jan. 6 at the Capitol could have been prevented if better advance security preparations had been made and intelligence reports heeded.
Pittman, on the other hand, sees a definite need to beef up the security infrastructure at the Capitol.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” Pittman wrote.
Installing a barrier may just be the reality of living in the 21st Century. Threats — foreign and domestic — are always looming, although with the exception of a couple of breakdowns, federal intelligence officials have done a good job of protecting Americans.
A barrier around the Capitol adds an extra layer of protection not just for the symbolic edifice but more importantly the people who visit and work there —elected officials, journalists and hundreds of civil servants alike. And a barrier would not have to be cage fencing; protection could be provided with landscaping or a classic wrought-iron fence — like the fencing that has long surrounded the White House.
Americans have made adjustments many times in the name of safety. Many remember the pre 9/11 and TSA days at airports when you could walk right to your gate. Or when you didn’t have to walk through a metal detector to attend a ball game. And, having mentioned the White House, there was a time when there weren’t concrete barriers outside the grounds to protect against a truck bomb.
The Capitol can still be accessible even with a few more layers of security to make sure it will continue to be around to convey the message of democracy.