Six months after they were erected in the wake of a far-right mob that swarmed the US Capitol steps and the halls of Congress, the final pieces of concrete barriers and black fencing surrounding the grounds have been removed, and crowds are returning to the Capitol.
Following a US Capitol Police Board memo that crews would begin removing the remaining temporary fencing, crews dismantled and loaded up what was left of the barriers on 10 July.
The fencing served as a dramatic symbol at the centre of US democracy and a marker of the consequences from a failed insurrection, fuelled by a former president’s false narrative that the election was stolen from him, and the still-unanswered security lapses that allowed a mob to threaten lawmakers and Capitol staff as it sought to prevent the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election.
In the days that followed, National Guard service members patrolled the grounds and were stationed at checkpoints, as fencing was gradually reduced. Twelve days after a road near the Capitol was reopened in April, a driver plowed a car into two Capitol police officers, killing one officer, before the driver was fatally shot.
In May, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a $1.9bn security bill to boost security around the Capitol, though the measure faces stiff opposition in the Senate.
Democratic US Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington DC introduced a measure – the “No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act” – to block federal funds from erecting fences around the Capitol in the future.
The removal of the remaining barricades “finally vindicates my campaign against fencing off the Capitol,” she said on Thursday. “We will never again allow our Capitol Hill neighborhood to be turned into a military zone any more than the Capitol itself.”
US Capitol Police “will continue to monitor intelligence information and the associated threat environment” around the Capitol complex, according to a memo to lawmakers from House Sergeant at Arms William Walker.
“The Architect of the Capitol has the ability to and will expeditiously reinstall the temporary fencing should conditions warrant,” he said.
In May, the US Department of Homeland Security renewed a terrorism advisory bulletin initially issued after the riot and the president’s inauguration as anti-government “ideologically motivated violent extremists” motivated by “perceived grievances fuelled by false narratives” could “continue to mobilise to incite or commit violence” domestically.
The updated advisory – which expires on 13 August – maintains that those threats continue to spread online “with the intent to incite violence” against elected officials, government facilities, law enforcement and “perceived ideologically opposed individuals”.