Washington Monument closed due to "credible threats"

Well, I suppose all’s fair in love, war and the pandemic. The people in Washington have been locking down everyone else for the better part of a year, but now some of the nation’s most famous monument and attractions in America’s capital are being locked down as well. Citing “credible threats” identified by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, many tourist destinations in Washington D.C. will be closed until after the Inauguration on January 20th. The suspects in this situation are allegedly the same people who plotted to riot at the Capitol building last week. This announcement certainly sounds as if they’re serious about the threat level because they’re not even bothering couching it with any phrases such as “an abundance of caution.” (CBS Baltimore)

Several Washington DC attractions along the National Mall, including tours of Washington Monument, are temporarily closed due “to credible threats to visitors and park resources” ahead of the President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“Groups involved in the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol continue to threaten to disrupt the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021,” Superintendent Jeffrey P. Reinbold of the National Mall and Memorial Parks said in an alert. “This includes the set up and execution of inaugural events, which occur in several park areas.”

The National Park Services is suspending tours of the Washington Monument beginning Jan. 22 through Jan. 24. NPS may also temporarily close public access to roadways, parking area and restrooms within the National Mall area to “public safety and park resources.”

This decision is being announced by the National Park Services but it almost certainly originated further up the food chain than that. If the Department of Homeland Security wasn’t consulted on this move I would be very surprised indeed.

Given what we witnessed on January 6th, I suppose we can’t rule anything out anymore, and there has clearly been some social media and dark web buzz about additional attacks. But I still find myself wondering if anyone would really be crazy enough to try something at this point.

Sure, you can say that it’s a silly question because there are obviously some angry people who are willing to strike out with violence. We’ve already witnessed that. But as I’ve pointed out here several times, the rioters who struck the Capitol building last week had the element of surprise on their side. Security services around Capitol Hill were obviously expecting a rally, not a riot. They were caught flat-footed because at least some of them obviously believed that the Trump supporters who showed up were literally going to pose for selfies and wave some flags and then go home when the speeches were over.

That element of surprise is gone now. All indications at this point suggest that the area around the site of the inauguration is going to look more like a military base than a civilian assembly. Both the Capitol Hill Police and the National Guard units will be issued riot gear and “lethal weapons” as was stated in a previous announcement. Even if rioters show up in numbers that dwarf the assembled police and military units, they will be facing trained troops that won’t be in the mood to take selfies.

Granted, we can’t rule out some other form of attack such as an explosive device and I’m sure that the bomb-sniffing dogs will be working overtime from now until the inauguration is over. But in terms of just another mass of people showing up and becoming violent, it’s very hard to imagine. A reboot of the events of January 6th will almost certainly end in a bloody and spectacular fashion for the attackers.

I don’t say any of this as a way to suggest that closing the Washington Monument and the rest of the memorials is a bad idea. We probably need to be operating on the side of extreme caution at this point. But it’s still a rather remarkable and depressing turn of events to see some of these historical fixtures shut down on what is typically a very big day for tourism in D.C.

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