Ever since the horrific events of January 6th, the U.S. Capitol complex has been surrounded by barbed wire fencing and cement barricades. Entering the complex feels more like accessing a military installation or a U.S. Embassy overseas.
Now there is talk of making the fencing and fortress-like security indefinite. On January 28th, the Acting Chief of U.S. Capitol Police announced that the fencing that currently surrounds the entire U.S. Capitol complex should be made permanent, “in light of recent events.” This is not only wrong from a security perspective, but it also undermines the symbol of our country’s representative government.
The truth is the “recent events” that led to the increased security are over. The inauguration of President Biden is now behind us without incident and the business of our country is moving forward. We should not allow the tragic events of a single day to permanently alter the people’s access to the seat of our representative government.
I am starting my fifth year as a U.S. congressman. In that time, I have witnessed citizens from around the country meeting with their representatives in the halls of Congress. I have seen school children taking photos on the Capitol steps with the statute of Freedom in the background. I have watched veterans who risked their lives for this country proudly stand at attention in sight of the flag flying over the Capitol. Make no mistake, the Capitol is hallowed ground. We need to keep it that way.
Beyond the intrusion into the lives of visitors to Washington, permanent military-style fencing is a tremendous symbolic stain on our country. The U.S. Capitol is a symbol of freedom both at home and abroad. At the top of the building stands the Statue of Freedom. Much like the Statue of Liberty in New York City, it symbolizes why so many people from around the world come to America. They come to start anew, unshackled by tyranny and oppression, to be free from political and religious persecution, and to live in freedom and peace. The current state of the Capitol Complex fundamentally undermines that message. It is appalling that Communist China allows their citizens more freedom to visit historical sites like Tiananmen Square in their capitol than currently exists for Americans who want to visit our Capitol in Washington, D.C.
I, along with dozens of my colleagues and outside organizations, will be sending a letter to Speaker Pelosi demanding that she put a stop to any plans for keeping the militarized barriers. My House colleagues and I are willing to have an honest debate about providing the Capitol Hill Police with the resources they need to be better prepared without turning the Capitol into a permanent fortress.
The opposition to permanent fencing is bipartisan. Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted that, “we will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.” The District’s Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “permanent fencing would send the wrong message to the nation and the world.” Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton tweeted, “I believe we can keep Members, press, staff, my constituents, and all those who work here safe without walling off the symbol of our democracy.”
It’s time for our nation’s representatives to stop hiding and start healing so we all can move forward. It’s time to remove the barbed wire fencing surrounding the Capitol and send the National Guard troops home to their families, instead of disrespectfully relegating them to parking garages.
Americans face challenges head-on and overcome them. We don’t cower in fear. Our leaders need to lead. It’s the patriotic thing to do.