People planning to watch — or protest — Donald Trump's inauguration festivities this week should prepare to maneuver through lots of security, including thousands of law enforcement personnel, National Guard troops, fences, magnetometers and cement-laden trucks.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson outlined the massive security preparations during a briefing at the Multi Agency Communications Center at a secret location in Virginia.
From that room, dozens of representatives from an alphabet soup of different agencies will gather to monitor events starting Thursday, with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, through Saturday's prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral.
But the main focus will be Friday's swearing in of the 45th president and the inaugural parade from the Capitol to the White House. Johnson says officials expect 700,000 to 900,000 spectators to attend the Inauguration Day ceremonies. He said 99 groups are expected to rally in favor of or against the new president.
Johnson said officials "know of no specific credible threat directed toward the inauguration," but they're taking no chances. Johnson said the "global terrorist environment is very different" this year than it was during President Obama's inaugurations in 2009 and 2013. He said law enforcement has to be concerned with homegrown violent extremism, acts of so-called lone wolves and people who have self-radicalized.
"We've got to be vigilant, we've got to plan, we've got to prepare," Johnson said. After terrorists drove trucks into crowds in Nice and Berlin last year, officials are protecting against a similar action in Washington. "Hard perimeter areas," where nongovernment vehicles will not be permitted, will be fortified by dump trucks, heavy trucks loaded with cement and with buses, Johnson said. "That is a precaution that we are doubling down on in particular this inauguration."
There are also concerns about possible airborne threats. Noting the airspace above Washington is already off-limits to drone flights (as well as most other air traffic), Johnson said unauthorized flights are "something we have planned for, and there is technology to deal with it." He would not say what that technology entails.
Johnson said some 28,000 officials will be dedicated to security for the inauguration, including Department of Homeland Security personnel from the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, as well as police from various departments in Washington, D.C., and from out of town, and some 7,800 National Guard troops.
Gates to the Inauguration Ceremony will open at 6 a.m. Friday. There will be sites for demonstrations along the parade route and on the National Mall.
More information about the inauguration schedule can be found here.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Tomorrow, President-elect Trump lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. It's the traditional start of a presidential inauguration, a way to honor those who've defended this country. As the inauguration unfolds, thousands of people in and out of uniform will be working to protect him and the many who come to see him. Washington, D.C. streets are lined with fences and cement barriers. Providing security for three days of events is expected to cost more than $100 million dollars. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Law enforcement agencies in Washington have been planning for over a year how to keep safe those who will be watching, taking part in and protesting the 58th presidential inauguration. They estimate that from 700,000 to 900,000 people will be in attendance, fewer than watched Barack Obama's inaugurations but still a very big crowd. Little is left to chance. Here's FBI assistant director Paul Abbate.
PAUL ABBATE: We have been doing a lot of preparations and practices and drills, tabletop exercises and rehearsals.
NAYLOR: In all, some 28,000 law enforcement personnel will be in Washington, including the FBI, the Secret Service, National Guard troops and police from Washington, D.C. and out of town. The Coast Guard will be patrolling the Potomac. And sharpshooters and spotters will be posted on top of buildings lining the inaugural parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue. A new security concern this year, that someone might try to drive a big truck into a crowd following similar attacks last year in Nice, France and Berlin. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says security officials have taken steps to prepare for that.
JEH JOHNSON: Dump trucks, heavy trucks, trucks with cement, busses and things of the like, that is a precaution that we are doubling down on, in particular, this inauguration.
NAYLOR: Johnson says 99 groups have applied for permits to demonstrate against or in favor of the incoming president. Protesters who go through security will be allowed along the parade route like anyone else. U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean says there will also be spots for organized demonstrations.
ROBERT MACLEAN: We have issued several permits. We continue to issue them all the way up through the day of the inauguration to these groups. And they will be spread out. And they will be placed in areas where they can exercise their First Amendment right.
NAYLOR: Demonstrations have disrupted inaugural parades in the past, most recently at George W. Bush's second inaugural. Protesters also threw rocks at Richard Nixon's motorcade in 1973. Johnson says officials will be closely monitoring things come Inauguration Day.
JOHNSON: We have our ear to the ground. We listen for and keep an eye on planned demonstrations, planned activity, specific types of demonstrations. And extra precautions are taken to ensure that the actual official event cannot be disrupted or blocked.
NAYLOR: Law enforcement will start to ease back security after the last official event, a prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.