How the Capitol Can Better Defend Itself From Riots
January 18, 2021 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Reboot Tags: Capitol RiotInsurrectionSecurityCapitol PoliceDonald Trump

How the Capitol Can Better Defend Itself From Riots

There are several tactical lessons to be drawn.

The violence will most immediately affect security preparations for the Jan. 20 inauguration, but its impacts will reverberate widely at home and abroad long after Biden assumes office. In the two weeks between now and Inauguration Day, officials will undoubtedly review the security failings at the Capitol to better prepare for Biden to take the oath of office, and seek to apply lessons learned to future high-profile events. Although Biden has said that pandemic precautions will make the events of the day much smaller, thereby placing fewer demands on security personnel, it is all but certain that the events of Jan. 6 will convince officials to err on the side of caution.

  • In light of the violence at the Capitol and in contrast with most recent inaugurations, where the main security threat has been that of terrorism, either directed from abroad or from homegrown jihadists, security officials will have to prepare frontline personnel to deal with potential repeat civil disturbances. Securing any area, but particularly one as challenging as an open city, from terrorism requires very different procedures than doing so against the threat of mass demonstrations, particularly when they are encouraged from the Oval Office.

  • In a city known for turf battles, local and federal authorities will need to do a much better job of coordinating. The Metropolitan Police Department has jurisdiction on city streets; the Park Police over areas near the National Mall, including the Ellipse south of the White House where the "Save America" rally initially began Jan. 6; the Secret Service in the vicinity of the White House; and the Capitol Police around the Capitol Complex. In addition to these law enforcement agencies, which may be supplemented with others from surrounding states and federal agencies, authorities will have to plan for the possible use of National Guard troops from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

  • District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended for two weeks the public emergency order she first used on Jan. 6 to impose a 6 p.m. curfew, which will give local authorities greater control through the inauguration. Bowser is unlikely actually to leave the curfew in place for the entire two-week period — though she has the authority to take that step and certain other precautions as she deems necessary.

  • Beyond Washington, security officials in state capitals and other major cities will also need to reevaluate their Inauguration Day precautions in light of violence at the Capitol. As witnessed across the country multiple times since the November vote, Trump supporters are liable to demonstrate — sometimes violently — near many different symbolic sites. The success rioters had in breaching the Capitol may convince other aggrieved right-wing protesters that they can and should seek to replicate the episode closer to home.

  • Authorities will have to balance a need to identify and disrupt preplanned, organized violence such as that witnessed at the Capitol with the threat of right-wing lone actors who plot violence on their own. Nearly all recent right-wing terrorist attacks have been conducted by lone actors, who present a unique set of counterterrorism challenges. Aspiring lone actors, particularly those who mix personal grievances with conspiracy theories, may perceive Inauguration Day as their final opportunity to prevent a transfer of power from Trump to Biden.

Tactical Lessons From the U.S. Capitol Siege is republished with the permission of Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical forecasting and intelligence publication from RANE, the Risk Assistance Network + Exchange. As the world's leading geopolitical intelligence platform, Stratfor Worldview brings global events into valuable perspective, empowering businesses, governments and individuals to more confidently navigate their way through an increasingly complex international environment. Stratfor is a RANE (Risk Assistance Network + Exchange) company.

Image: Reuters.