Mayor Muriel Bowser requested a federal emergency declaration on Sunday in the wake of a deadly insurrection attempt at the Capitol on 6 January, incited by the president and carried out by his supporters in an attempt to overturn results from the 2020 election. Federal law enforcement has warned that additional attacks at statehouses across the US and at the capital could follow.
The Department of Homeland Security has also ordered the US Secret Service to begin “National Special Security Event” operations – preparations for the inauguration – on 13 January, moving up three days from the initial 16 January schedule.
Acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf, who resigned on Monday, said he moved operations "in light of the events of the past week and the evolving national security landscape leading up to the inauguration” and at the guidance of Secret Service director James Murray.
The federal emergency declaration will remain in effect until 24 January.
At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Bowser urged Americans to avoid visiting DC for the inauguration, adding that "if I'm scared of anything, it's for our democracy, because we have very extreme factions in our country that are armed and dangerous".
“Our goals right now are to encourage Americans to participate virtually and to protect the District of Columbia from a repeat of the violent insurrection experienced at the Capitol and its grounds,” she said.
In her letter seeking the president’s approval, she said: “Based on recent events and intelligence assessments, we must prepare for large groups of trained and armed extremists to come to Washington DC."
The FBI has issued a memo to law enforcement partners warning far-right extremists plan “armed protests” in all 50 states and at the capital following a lethal riot in the halls of Congress last week that saw the deaths of at least five people, including a Capitol Police officer. Dozens of people have been charged.
“This identified group is also planning to 'storm' government offices including in the District of Columbia and in every state, regardless of whether the states certified electoral votes for Biden or Trump, on 20 January,” according to a bulletin obtained by CNN.
The FBI is also tracking reports of “various threats to harm” the president-elect, as well as vice president-elect Kamala Harris and House speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the report.