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Remaining fencing around the Capitol complex to be removed

The remaining fencing installed around the U.S. Capitol in the wake of the January 6 insurrection will start to be removed as early as Friday, according to a memo by the House sergeant-at-arms to lawmakers and staff obtained by CBS News.

Sergeant-at-Arms William J. Walker said in the memo that the decision was made in consultation with the U.S. Capitol Police and congressional stakeholders, and that the removal of fencing could be finished within three days. Although most of the fencing around congressional buildings was removed in March, the inner fencing around the Capitol building itself remained.

“Based on USCP’s assessment of the current threat environment and USCP’s enhanced coordination with District of Columbia, neighboring state and federal law enforcement partners, the Board supports USCP’s recommendation to remove the temporary fencing around Capitol Square,” Walker said, adding that the architect of the Capitol “has the ability to and will expeditiously reinstall the temporary fencing should conditions warrant.”

However, Walker also said that “current building access restrictions will remain in place,” meaning that the Capitol will still be closed to visitors. The Capitol complex initially closed to visitors last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and has remained shuttered in the wake of the January 6 attack.

A violent mob of Trump supporters overran the Capitol in a deadly attack on January 6, seeking to harm lawmakers and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died, including a Trump supporter who was shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to enter the House chamber, and three who suffered medical emergencies. A Capitol Police officer died after confronting the mob, and two officers died by suicide in the wake of the attack.

National Guard troops were stationed throughout the Capitol complex until May, when their five-month deployment ended. 

The House narrowly approved legislation providing $1.9 billion to bolster security at the Capitol in May, despite unified Republican opposition. The bill has not yet been taken up in the Senate, and it is unclear whether it would receive sufficient support to pass.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy warned in June that Capitol Police could run out of funding in August if the Senate does not approve the supplemental spending bill before then. In a statement, Leahy said that “doing nothing will deplete salaries funds” for Capitol Police officers by next month.

He said the bill “would address these shortfalls and provide new resources for overtime, hazard pay, mental health services, retention bonuses, and new equipment and training for the Capitol Police.” 

Nikole Killion contributed to this report.


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