WASHINGTON — As America votes Tuesday, Washington, D.C., is on edge. The prospect of a dramatic election has led to fortifications that have penetrated the most exclusive sections of the nation’s capital.
Members of the National Guard have been called in to Washington, D.C., and around the White House, new fences have been erected around the presidential complex. The drama has even reached the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and the mansion owned by the president’s daughter Ivanka.
At Trump’s hotel, dinner reservations were canceled on Monday evening for anyone who didn’t have a room. An employee of the steakhouse apologetically called customers with reservations, explaining that the hotel was on high security and only guests staying at the hotel would be allowed inside the building.
The move to restrict access to the president’s hotel, which is located less than a mile away from the White House, comes as polls show former Vice President Joe Biden ahead at the national and state level. Faced with these numbers, Trump has indicated his campaign might raise legal challenges to the voting process.
Washington, D.C., a Democratic stronghold, previously locked down during the protests in the summer following the killing of George Floyd. Now, both sides of the campaign blame each other for the election tensions, and protesters have already started gathering in front of the White House.
On Monday night, those protesters were peaceful. One woman, Kathleen Hughes Kilpatrick, was dancing to Luther Vandross on Monday evening and said she hoped to dance Trump “out of the White House.”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, alluded to the notion that “leftists” drove the prior protests and suggested they would be responsible for any election tensions.
“No one is boarding up windows or fortifying cities to protect against Trump supporters,” Murtaugh said. “The violent leftist mobs aligned with Joe Biden are threatening the safety of Americans across the country. This is nothing short of extortion — leftists threatening violence when Biden loses.”
In fact, a recent DHS report cited concerns about potential attacks, particularly from white supremacists, if Trump loses.
A Biden campaign adviser blamed the rising tensions in Washington on Trump.
“The fact D.C. is on edge speaks to the vitriolic partisanship that Trump has manifested because of how divisive he is,” the Biden adviser said. “We need to be able to have free and fair elections in this country without people boarding up their businesses. ... That is the kind of country that Donald Trump has led and led us to.”
Around the president’s residence, there are extensive new fortifications extending to the streets where demonstrators have gathered since the spring. National Guardsmen could be seen behind the fencing in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, and in perhaps the starkest sign of disruption, the standard T-shirt and souvenir vendors were absent from the corner of 17th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue. In their place was a street preacher who loudly played “Amazing Grace” on a sound system.
“It’s better than somebody screaming right?” a Secret Service agent at the White House fence quipped.
The streets surrounding the White House and parts of the National Mall are closed to parking and dotted with signs declaring it a “FIRST AMENDMENT ACTIVITY AREA” through Sunday, Nov. 8.
At the Palm, a venerable D.C. steakhouse favored by lobbyists and officials, a bartender told one visitor the wood boards over the windows were because replacing glass could “take six months.” Inside, a maître d’ asked a regular patron if they had “a gun” for potential violence after voting. The customer indicated they were “not a gun person” but were still concerned.
And the issues extend beyond downtown Washington.
Preparations are also taking place in the city’s residential districts. A Senate staffer told Yahoo News they had withdrawn “large amounts” of cash to weather potential drama. And a former Trump administration staffer said, “Everyone I know is stockpiling alcohol.”
The drama over the election in the nation’s capital has even reached the tony Kalorama district, a neighborhood of mansions and diplomatic residences that is home to former President Barack Obama and the current president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. In recent weeks, Ivanka and Jared, who are both White House advisers, have seen their home surrounded by Biden signs.
One of their neighbors, Marietta Robinson, who had erected anti-Trump, pro-Biden signs on her lawn, suggested her neighborhood would be insulated from postelection drama.
“The only people who are going to do anything on election night are the Trump crazies that are carrying guns around,” Robinson said. “They’re not going to go after Jared and Ivanka.”
Next door to Robinson, a neighbor displayed a sign touting Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence.
Another neighbor, a retiree and self-described Democrat named Richard Miller, had a pro-Biden sign on a lawn next door to their house.
“We’re for Biden, and we wanted to be able to say that. The fact that it says it in front of them is good too,” said Miller, referring to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. “The sign would have been there whether or not they lived there.”
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