Why is US Capitol on lockdown? 'External security threat' causes inauguration rehearsal participants to evacuate

This comes barely two weeks after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 where Trump supporters clashed with cops, vandalized, and almost attempted a coup

                            Why is US Capitol on lockdown? 'External security threat' causes inauguration rehearsal participants to evacuate
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON DC: On Monday, January 18, news agencies reported that the U.S. Capitol building, which was the scene of a deadly insurrection on January 6, was under lockdown. As per a Reuters report, no entry or exit was allowed in the building due to an “external security threat”. 

Journalist Jessi Turnure reported on Twitter that even the surrounding House and Senate offices are on lockdown. Loudspeakers warned of an “exterior threat”, she said, adding that security officials were also evacuating inauguration rehearsal participants on the West Front of the Capitol. 


What was the cause for the lockdown? 

As per an Associated Press report, the lockdown was put in place following a fire. The U.S. Secret Service said in a statement: “Public safety and law enforcement responded to a small fire in the area of 1st and F streets SE, Washington, D.C. that has been extinguished. Out of an abundance of caution the U.S. Capitol complex was temporarily shutdown. There is no threat to the public.”

The U.S. Capitol Police also released a statement saying there were no fires on the Capitol campus. “Members and staff were advised to shelter in place while the incident is being investigated,” they said. As per a BBC report, some eyewitnesses reported smoke near the Capitol as well. 

While this may have been an unrelated incident, Governors across the nation are already fortifying statehouses amid fears of possibly violent protests in the lead-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. The FBI has issued warnings of potentially violent protests in all 50 states ahead of Biden's swearing-in.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

The January 6 incident has been called a coup-attempt by many, including Republican party members. Last Friday, Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Arizona, referred to it as a “violent insurrection.”

During the insurrection, a Capitol Police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher died. Among the dead was also a rioter who was shot by a police officer. Three others died as a result of “medical emergencies” on the Capitol grounds, according to the authorities. According to the Capitol Police, more than 50 officers from the department and Metropolitan Police Department sustained injuries, while several of them were "hospitalized with serious injuries." The rioters vandalized many parts of the building. They also engaged in looting. 

In its aftermath, on January 13, President Trump was impeached by the House for the second time -- making him the only U.S. president to ever be impeached twice. The resolution passed with 232 “Ayes”, 197 “Nays”, and four legislators abstaining from voting. Of the 232, ten names were those from the Republican party.

As per a CNN report, evidence suggests this was not a rally gone violent. There was planning involved. Defense officials told CNN that the National Guard and law enforcement expect explosives like pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails to be used in any coming unrest. Perpetrators, as per these officials, will come with high "aggression," and that "their intentions are very serious."

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