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Authorities Aim To Strengthen D.C. Security Before Biden's Inauguration

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The top three security chiefs in Congress resigned after Wednesday's attack. And authorities are working to strengthen security before Inauguration Day. Daniella Cheslow reports from member station WAMU.

DANIELLA CHESLOW, BYLINE: Workers installed 7-foot-high black metal fencing yesterday around the U.S. Capitol. National Guard troops and officers from the district, from Virginia and from the U.S. Capitol Police were out on the streets, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Stop the steal. Stop the steal.

CHESLOW: It drew a sharp contrast with thin law enforcement presence a day before. Rioters easily overwhelmed police and forced lawmakers into hiding. One woman was fatally shot in the siege. The head of the U.S. Capitol Police and the sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate resigned Thursday amid complaints they were poorly prepared.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MURIEL BOWSER: Obviously, it was a failure. Or you would not have had police lines breached and people enter the Capitol building by breaking windows.

CHESLOW: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser laid the blame on U.S. Capitol Police, as well as on the rioters and on President Trump. Now she and other officials responsible for security in D.C. are trying to prevent a repeat. The mayor has declared a 15-day state of emergency. It gives her broad powers, including enforcing curfews and requesting federal disaster assistance. U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy says the National Guard got no federal requests for help before Wednesday's events. He says now 6,200 National Guard troops are activated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN MCCARTHY: The entire D.C. National Guard has been mobilized. We have also received the support from the state of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York.

CHESLOW: To help guard the Capitol, the new fence will stand for 30 days. Acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee says the U.S. Capitol Police only asked him for help at 1 o'clock on Wednesday, after the invasion was well underway. He says that made it difficult for his officers to make arrests.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT CONTEE: The men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department went into a situation that was already out of control. So once control was established and that perimeter was established, then and only then are we able to safely make arrests.

CHESLOW: He says 56 officers were injured. Ultimately, D.C. police and U.S. Capitol Police arrested a total of about 80 people. By contrast, nearly 300 people were arrested on June 1's protest for racial justice in D.C. During those demonstrations, federal agents and National Guard troops were deployed, backing up local law enforcement. As the inauguration approaches, authorities are trying to round up rioters who entered the capital. The FBI opened a tip line. And D.C. Police Chief Contee called on the public nationwide to help identify people who were photographed breaking in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CONTEE: Some of these images - there's no mistake about who some of these people are. Call into your local FBI office. Identify who these individuals are. And let's hold them accountable.

CHESLOW: He's offering up to a thousand dollars for information that leads to arrests. For NPR News, I'm Daniella Cheslow in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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