Capitol Riot Response Could Have Differed if D.C. was a State

DC National Guard stand outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, after a day of rioting protesters.

DC National Guard stand outside the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, after a day of rioting protesters. AP Photo/Julio Cortez

 

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With Democrats assuming control of the Senate, Washington, D.C. could have a better shot at statehood. The District’s mayor wants to see urgent action on the issue.

The law enforcement response to the siege of the U.S. Capitol would have gone differently if Washington, D.C. was a state, according to the District’s mayor. And she urged federal lawmakers to move quickly on the statehood issue once Democrats assume control of Congress and the White House. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday reiterated her call for the District to become a state as she discussed how local authorities assisted federal law enforcement in their fight to regain control of the Capitol grounds during Wednesday’s riots.

“We must get statehood on the president’s desk within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress,” she said of the District’s priorities for the incoming Biden administration. “Congress must immediately transfer command of the D.C. National Guard from the president of the United States and put it squarely under the command and control of the mayor of the District of Columbia.”

With Democrats winning two key Senate seats in runoff elections in Georgia this week and gaining a razor thin majority in the chamber, the odds that the District could become the 51st state will grow under President-elect Joe Biden. 

The federal district is limited in how it can deploy its own National Guard, a problem that became apparent when protestors who attended a rally to support President Trump began to march on the U.S. Capitol. Bowser had already called up about 340 National Guard troops Wednesday to assist with crowd control for the day’s protests on city streets. 

But U.S. Capitol Police, who oversee security at the Capitol complex appeared completely unprepared to deal with the mob of Trump supporters who broke through barricades and into the building, forcing Congress into a temporary lockdown. When the tenor of the protests suddenly turned, Bowser was unable to change the scope of the guard’s deployment or to call up additional troops without first getting permission from the Department of Defense.

If Bowser served as a governor of a state, rather than mayor, she said the National Guard could have been more easily dispatched.   

“We would not be restricted in any way from how to deploy the guard, so we would not have to clear a deployment plan with the secretary of the Army,” she said. “We could be nimble in how we change [the plan].”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, also criticized the federal government’s slow response to the riots, saying it took “an hour and a half” for federal authorities to approve his request to deploy Maryland guardsmen to the District.

Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to making Washington, D.C. the 51st state. D.C., which votes overwhelmingly Democrat, has about  700,000 residents, more than either Wyoming or Vermont. But the District lacks voting representation in Congress. 

Now that Democrats defeated Republicans in the runoff races for Georgia’s two Senate seats, Democrats will control the House, Senate and presidency. Control of the U.S. Senate will be split 50-50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the ability to cast tie-breaking votes.

The House passed legislation in June that would make Washington, D.C. the 51st state, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting representative introduced similar legislation already this year.

To maintain order in the nation’s capital in the runup to the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, local and federal authorities are taking additional precautions. 

National Guard troops were also deployed from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. A total of 6,200 guardsman will be deployed in the District by the weekend, said Ryan McCarthy, the secretary of the Army.

Bowser issued a curfew Wednesday to help tamp down the violence and police arrested 68 people for curfew violations or other crimes associated with the riots at the Capitol. Law enforcement are now working to identify people who stormed the Capitol and are expected to bring additional charges.

Washington, D.C.’s full contingent of National Guard troops are now deployed and Bowser has issued a state of emergency that will last through Biden’s inauguration and will allow her to issue additional curfew restrictions if needed.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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