Remaining metal fencing around Capitol set to come down

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The remaining metal fencing surrounding the Capitol is set to come down more than six months after the worst attack on the building since the War of 1812.

The removal is expected to begin as early as this Friday and finish within three days, weather permitting, according to a memo from House Sergeant at Arms William Walker that was sent to all members of Congress and staff. The barrier, which surrounds the grounds immediately outside the Capitol building, is one of the last remnants of security infrastructure built after the insurrection on Jan. 6.

The memo also notes the Architect of the Capitol “has the ability to and will expeditiously reinstall” the fencing if needed. And according to a similar memo sent to all Senate offices on behalf of the Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson, the Capitol Police will still use bike racks to block off access to parts of the Lower West Terrace and the East Front Plaza of the Capitol. That memo did not note if the usage of bike racks as barriers would be temporary or permanent.

Lawmakers had debated the future of the barriers for months after the attack as they tried to strike a balance between open access to the Capitol and security. Few expressed any willingness to keep the fencing, and additional funding to maintain or alter the structure was left in doubt when the House’s $1.9 billion emergency security funding package stalled out in the Senate.

An outer perimeter fence that closed off several blocks around the Capitol was removed in March, and the Capitol Police Board abandoned plans to reconstruct it in the days leading up to President Joe Biden’s joint address to Congress in April.

The campus is still closed to most members of the public, with tours halted for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, and the memo notes current restrictions on access to the Capitol "will remain in place."

The three-member Capitol Police Board, a normally obscure panel, had the final say on the fence’s removal after the Capitol Police recommended it be taken down. Its voting membership is composed of the Architect of the Capitol and the House and Senate Sergeants-at-arms, with the Capitol Police chief attending as a non-voting member.

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