More than two months after the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, authorities are finally preparing to scale back the hideous razor-wire fence that has surrounded the grounds since.
I’m being a bit flip, but it is an aesthetic issue to some extent: The New York Times notes that its removal will be “a visible milestone” that things in the seat of our government are returning to “normal.” (Normalcy being what we all crave these days, apparently, if only the appearance of it.) And though the fencing serves as a kind of show of force and impenetrability, its very existence reminds us that the Capitol was at one point quite easily breached.
Materially, the fencing also prevents the public from using the Capitol grounds for protests and demonstrations. And even more egregiously, it remains heavily militarized: Though the number of National Guard troops guarding the perimeter of the Capitol has been cut in half, more than 2,200 still remain. Altogether, the increased security run taxpayers about $2 million a week, and by the end of March the costs will total around $19 million.
Eliminating both the fencing and the troops has become a bipartisan issue, for both symbolic and practical reasons. On Friday, top Republicans in the Senate sent a letter to Capitol police arguing that the security measures are “disproportionate to the available intelligence” regarding threats on the Capitol. It also “sends a terrible message to American citizens, as well as to our allies and adversaries, and it is not a long-term security solution,” the letter read.
“The fencing is obviously a concern to many people, me included,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said earlier this month. “ ... I think most people think that ought not to be a permanent reality on the Hill.”
The enclosed perimeter is also apparently a huge headache for people who work in and around the Capitol, as well as for runners and pedestrians who typically frequent the area.
It’s seeming as though some amount of fencing will remain for the foreseeable future: Brett Blanton, the official who oversees the buildings and grounds, has suggested more strategically placed fencing that will only cost $1.2 million a week instead of $1.9 million. I suggest that law enforcement find a different way to make sure a mob of white supremacists don’t attack the Capitol again, and put up zero fencing for zero dollars.