Stay or go? Fence, Guard pose Capitol security questions

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

National Guard open a gate in the razor wire topped perimeter fence around the Capitol allow another member in at sunrise in Washington, Monday, March 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON – Nobody, it seems, wants to keep the security fence around the U.S. Capitol anymore — except the police who fought off the horrific attack on Jan. 6.

Lawmakers call the razor-topped fencing “ghastly,” too militarized and, with the armed National Guard troops still stationed at the Capitol since a pro-Trump mob laid siege, not at all representative of the world’s leading icon of democracy.

“All you have to do is to see the fencing around the Capitol to be shocked,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said in an interview Friday.

How to protect lawmakers, while keeping the bucolic Capitol grounds open to visitors has emerged as one of the more daunting, wrenching questions from deadly riot. Not since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has security been so elevated, and the next steps so uncertain, for the Capitol complex.

Five people died after the mob stormed the building trying to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election over Republican Donald Trump. The former president was impeached by the House for inciting the insurrection, and acquitted by the Senate.

The U.S. Capitol Police has asked for the fencing and the National Guard to remain, for now.

Police officers are working grueling round-the-clock overtime shifts after being overrun that day, engaging at times in hand-to-hand combat with rioters outfitted in combat gear and armed with bats, poles and other weaponry. One woman was shot and killed by police and an officer died later, among scores of police injured in what officials have said appeared to be a planned and coordinated assault.

With warnings of another attack in early March by pro-Trump militants and threats on lawmakers that have nearly doubled since the start of 2021, the police, the Pentagon and lawmakers themselves are wrestling with how best to secure what has been a sprawling campus mostly open to visiting tourists and neighborhood dog walkers alike.