A local governing body is pressing the incoming presidential transition team to strip down protective fencing that surrounds the White House, saying it obstructs pedestrian access.
The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission passed a resolution Wednesday night requesting President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ transition team to plan on removing the fencing surrounding the White House, fortified as a safeguard against racial justice and election demonstrations this year. In the final ANC meeting of the calendar year and the existing term, commissioners also heard updates from recently reelected D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto and approved another after-hours permit for an ongoing construction project at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave.
Here are a few of the meeting’s highlights:
ANC calls to remove White House fencing
Senior and ANC chair James Harnett said the fencing, which surrounds the White House, Lafayette Park, President’s Park and the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, has hindered access to public pedestrian space often used by protesters.
“It obstructed pedestrians’ access to Lafayette Park and to areas that are traditional protest bases for members of the community and the public that wish to have their voice heard to the occupant of the White House,” Harnett said.
The United Secret Service first blockaded pedestrian access in the area last September when the National Park Service helped fund a construction project on the fencing surrounding the White House, closing off the public from the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Secret Service and the National Park Service Police extended protective fencing earlier this year in preparation for racial justice protests, blocking off Lafayette and President’s parks and creating a wider layer of security around the White House.
The resolution states that the Biden-Harris transition team should plan to remove the fencing following the inauguration since the construction project has concluded and security threats no longer remain.
Brooke Pinto updates the community
Pinto – the D.C. Council member who represents Ward 2, including Foggy Bottom – attended the meeting and updated the commissioners and public attendees on several city issues, including election protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. Pinto, who’s served on the Council since winning the Ward 2 special election in June, was reelected to the Council during the general election earlier this month.
Pinto said she was “very pleased” with the peaceful demonstrations in D.C. during the election, but she condemned the violent actions of far-right demonstrators and outside agitators who flocked to D.C. last weekend to protest the results of the election and rail against counter-protesters. Pinto identified the Proud Boys as one group which endangered the city in failing to take health precautions amid the pandemic and violently attacking local residents.
“The violence that we saw in the city and destruction over the past weekend was extremely troubling and unacceptable,” she said. “While the right to peacefully protest is protected by the First Amendment, hate and violence has no place in our community at any time.”
Pinto also criticized the Metropolitan Police Department for several videos that surfaced of officers helping President Donald Trump supporters tear down Black Lives Matter signs and “standing by as violence unfolded.” Commissioners expressed similar concerns earlier in the meeting, noting how MPD appeared to favor far-right groups over Black Lives Matter protesters, who police tear gassed and shot rubber bullets at during peaceful demonstrations this summer.
“I was out there at Black Lives Matter Plaza and saw a lot of that disparity, and I think that certainly as a community, we owe our neighbors accountability, and making sure that we’re treating everybody with the respect that they deserve and recognizing that White nationalists that come into this city to incite violence should have no home here,” Harnett said.
Pinto said the Council will hold an oversight meeting next week to discuss appropriate protocol for officials to follow when handling elections and draw a line between classifying a demonstration as either a protest or a riot.
Pinto also discussed the city’s “alarming” rise in COVID-19 infections and urged locals to stay home, wear a mask and stay distanced from others. She also informed commissioners that she and six of her other colleagues wrote a letter to D.C. Public Schools officials “demanding more transparency and answers” about the firing of School Without Walls High School Principal Richard Trogisch, who opposed D.C. reopening plans, but she said District officials have refused to offer insight into the decision.
Commissioners greenlight Boston Properties’ after-hours permit
The ANC also unanimously passed legislation approving a request from Boston Properties – the real estate company reconstructing the site at 2100 Penn – to extend its after-hours construction permit from next Monday through the end of February as part of its renovation project. The resolution supports the company’s construction running from 7 p.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
The resolution also allots the company after-hours construction without noisy work from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. during December and from 6 to 7 a.m. until the end of February.