Security fencing removed from Washington Capitol campus

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The security fencing around buildings on Washington state’s Capitol campus was removed Tuesday, four months after the barriers went up during national unrest tied to the presidential election.

The Olympian reports enhanced security measures have been in place since January. A crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the gates to the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia on Jan. 6, the same day a pro-Trump mob stormed the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Jan. 8 he had activated the Washington State National Guard to be in Olympia with State Patrol and local law enforcement ahead of the first day of the state’s 2021 legislative session Jan. 11. Groups had announced, then publicly canceled protest plans that included entering the Legislative Building, which has been closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions.

Calls to remove the fence from Republican state lawmakers were unheeded during the 105-day legislative session that ended April 25. Democratic leaders in the legislature said they defer to security experts on that call, such as State Patrol. In mid-March, the restricted area reopened to pedestrian access from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Numerous groups threatened to sue Governor Inslee and other state leaders; deeming the security fence unconstitutional. Protests broke out in the wake of national unrest and the U.S. Capitol riots back in early January.

Chris Liu, the director for the DES, released a statement regarding the fence:

I’m pleased to announce that we’re removing the temporary construction fencing on West Campus. It was an important measure to protect free speech rights, the democratic process and government operations. We are hopeful that political temperatures will continue to cool and that threat levels or illegal activity will not necessitate such security measures again. However, there are still many unknowns as to how our security environment will continue evolve into the future. I want to emphasize that it is a priority for DES Capitol Security and Washington State Patrol to not only protect public safety, but to help ensure that all sides have the opportunity to legally exercise their free speech rights and peaceably assemble.”

DES Capitol Security and the Washington State Patrol will continue to monitor and adjust security and safety levels as the need arises, according to a press release. 

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