Ahead of Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, and in light of last Wednesday’s insurrection, when a mob of President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol during the certification of electoral votes, Washington-area airports and hotels, as well as airlines that fly into the region, are tightening security measures.
Five people died as a result of the violence on Jan. 6. Members of Congress were evacuated from the Capitol, which was put under lockdown.
Anxiety about traveling to the nation’s capital, for many, hasn’t been this high since 9/11. On Monday, the F.B.I. notified other law enforcement agencies of the potential for protests in the Washington area and in all 50 state capitals by far-right extremist groups. As of Monday about 6,000 National Guard troops from six states had already arrived in Washington in preparation for the inauguration; by this weekend, that number is expected to have grown to 15,000.
“Travelers may notice additional law enforcement and canine presence, especially when events such as what we have just seen and the upcoming inauguration justify an increased security posture,” said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.
In addition to government agencies, companies are also taking steps to curb potential violence spurred by right-wing groups.
GoFundMe, the largest fund-raising site in the world, said it took down fund-raisers for travel expenses for individuals involved in potentially violent political events and would continue to ban them. In recent months, the company removed several fund-raisers attempting to challenge the results of the 2020 election, a spokesman said.
“We strongly condemn the violence and attempted insurrection and will continue to remove fund-raisers that attempt to spread misinformation about the election, promote conspiracy theories and contribute to or participate in attacks on U.S. democracy,” said Patrick Mahoney, a spokesman for the company, in an email.
And Airbnb said on Monday that it is reviewing all Washington-area reservations; those associated with hate groups will have their reservations canceled and be banned from the platform, as will people identified as being involved in criminal activity at the Capitol.
Airports and airlines
Two local airports, Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport, are particular areas of concern. “Passengers can expect to see an increased law enforcement presence as they travel through the airports,” said Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the two airports. “Our police officers are providing additional security and have not made any arrests.”
Before the riots, United Airlines moved its crews from downtown Washington hotels and increased staffing at area airports. The airline has been and continues to be working with the Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
On Wednesday, American Airlines banned alcohol in first class for flights out of Washington. (The airline stopped serving alcohol in the main cabin last year because of the pandemic.)
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, which represents flight attendants from 17 airlines, called for the insurrectionists to be banned from flights out of Washington and requested that the T.S.A., the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and other law enforcement entities “keep all problems on the ground.”
“Some of the people who traveled in our planes yesterday participated in the insurrection at the Capitol,” Ms. Nelson said in a statement. “Their violent and seditious actions at the Capitol today create further concern about their departure from the DC area. Acts against our democracy, our government, and the freedom we claim as Americans must disqualify these individuals from the freedom of flight.”
Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union representing American Airlines’ flight attendants, said there were multiple incidents on flights headed to Washington during the week.
“Flight attendants were forced to confront passengers exhibiting politically motivated aggression towards other passengers and crew,” she said in a statement. “This behavior is unacceptable, and flight attendants should not have to deal with these egregious incidents.”
On Thursday night, “non-mask compliant, rowdy, argumentative” passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight from Dulles to Seattle harassed crew members, a spokeswoman told The Times. Those passengers have been banned from flying with the airline in the future.
On Friday, a group of Trump supporters accosted Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at Ronald Reagan National Airport. A day earlier, Representative Lou Correa, a Democrat from California, was yelled at by Trump supporters at Dulles International Airport. He later told CNN that he was surprised that security wasn’t tighter.
“It shocked me that in an airport with all that security, this kind of an altercation took place,” the congressman said. “I’ve always thought of airports as being the most secure place in America to be in.”
Representative Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement on Thursday that the Capitol rioters should be placed on the federal no-fly list.
“Given the heinous domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol yesterday, I am urging the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use their authorities to add the names of all identified individuals involved in the attack to the federal No-Fly List and keep them off planes,” he said.
Ms. Farbstein of the T.S.A. said the agency will accommodate F.B.I. requests and congressional authorizations related to no-fly lists.
Hotels take measures, too
Hotels in the Washington area are also tightening security.
In December, after the Washington Post described the Hotel Harrington and its bar, Harry’s, as the “unofficial headquarters” for the Proud Boys, a far right group, the hotel was closed on Jan. 4, 5 and 6; the bar shut down on Jan. 5 and 6.
The Line Hotel said an altercation on Wednesday involving the Proud Boys took place near the hotel; the troublemakers were evicted from the property with assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.
At the Grand Hyatt Hotel, a video taken by the Bloomberg News reporter William Turton showed mostly unmasked people dressed in pro-Trump and other “Make America Great Again” merchandise drinking and socializing in the lobby.
Mr. Turton wrote on Twitter that several Trump supporters demanded that he delete his video. They tried following him to his room and hotel security had to move him to different accommodations.
On Twitter, many viewers of the video asked why the hotel did not enforce mask rules and why it did not forcibly remove those who weren’t following rules.
A spokesman for Hyatt said that ahead of the riots on Jan. 6, teams at Hyatt hotels in Washington implemented enhanced security measures and engaged with local authorities.
“The Grand Hyatt Washington team worked to address the situation in an effort to ensure guests were following COVID-19 protocols — including by offering face coverings or requesting guests to return to guestrooms,” Mr. Snart said in an email, adding that guests either returned to their rooms, vacated the hotel or followed the rules.
Julie Rollend, a spokeswoman for Marriott said that company is monitoring the situation in Washington “very closely and has operational and security plans in place.”
“At this point we can’t rule anything out and we are going to be taking all of the necessary precautions for insurrectionists and riotists if they show up,” said Benjy Cannon, a spokesman for Unite Here Local 25, the union that represents some 7,200 hospitality workers in the district.
In the lead-up to Jan. 6, the union was in touch with management at hotels in the area about safety steps that could be taken to keep workers safe. Employees were told they could stay home if they were worried about potential violence and at some locations managers stayed overnight; the union is hoping both measures will be in place during the upcoming inauguration.
Mr. Cannon added that the majority of union members are immigrants and people of color, communities that are at the greatest risk of Covid infections and racial violence.
“Protecting them should be of most importance,” he said.
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