The National Park Service announced in a press release late Friday that the area “within and around the National Mall” would be closed to the public through Inauguration Day “in response to real and substantially likely threats to visitors and park resources” in the wake of a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.
In their release, the Park Service said “National Park Service public facilities, parking areas and roadways” would be shut down at the request of the U.S. Secret Service “from January 15, 2021, at approximately 6:00 a.m., through approximately 9:00 p.m. on January 20, 2021,” the day President-elect Joe Biden is set to be sworn in an outdoor, but “limited” ceremony.
“Groups involved in the January 6, 2021 riots at the US Capitol continue to threaten to disrupt the 59th presidential inauguration on January 20, 2021,” the Park Service said.
The announcement comes after reports first revealed Thursday that the Park Service was considering the move. At the time, a spokesperson said “no final decision” had been made, according to The Washington Times.
COVID-19 changes plans
The closing of the mall marks a break from recent precedent: thousands have traditionally gathered on the grassy areas of the National Mall to witness the swearing-in of the next president.
In light of the coronavirus, however, Biden had encouraged supporters to stay home as early as last month.
“President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect [Kamala] Harris will take their oaths of office at the U.S. Capitol during a historic ceremony that includes vigorous health and safety protocols,” his inaugural committee said in a statement in mid-December, according to the New York Post.
“The ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined. The [committee] is urging the public to refrain from any travel and participate in the inaugural activities from home,” the statement added.
In its press release announcing the closure of the National Mall, the Park Service confirmed that the inaugural events will be “largely virtual,” saying:
These events will be produced solely for a television audience, with no live audience, and there will be no traditional Inaugural Parade.
Elsewhere in D.C., much of the Capitol area has already been blocked off by fencing ahead of the inauguration ceremony, and thousands of National Guard troops have been deployed to ensure no further unrest transpires.
“Clearly we are in uncharted waters,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Despite the apparent security concerns, Biden has made clear he’s “not afraid” to move forward as planned. “I’m not afraid of taking the oath outside,” he told reporters this week, according to Politico.