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Trump inauguration security planners gird for protests
WASHINGTON — Security surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump is proving to be the most challenging in recent history, according to senior officials involved in its planning, largely because of the same forces of political rancor that shaped the race for the presidency.
On top of the daunting threats to any inaugural ceremony, the three dozen agencies responsible for security at the Jan. 20 festivities are preparing for the possibility of large numbers of protesters flooding the capital, along with what may be nearly 1 million supporters of Trump.
The agencies are worried about the possibility of confrontations between groups of Americans still deeply divided over the election — and at a moment when millions of people around the world will be turning their attention to Washington. At the very least, officials said, protests would put additional pressure on the region’s already-stretched security apparatus.
There were, of course, heightened concerns for the second inauguration of Bush, in 2005, the first presidential swearing-in to follow the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And in 2009, Obama’s inauguration was the first transfer of power in the post-9/11 era — and the first in which an African-American was taking the oath of office. Obama faced a rash of racist threats.
Even so, Obama did not face the kind of large protests expected to greet Trump when he officially arrives in Washington. The 2009 crowd of nearly 2 million people, a record, included few, if any, protesters and did not lead to a single arrest, according to Christopher T. Geldart, the director of homeland security for the District of Columbia.
The National Park Service, which controls much of the public land in Washington, from sidewalks to the Mall, has already seen permit requests from groups hoping to host events both for and against Trump skyrocket to 23; in typical inauguration years it gets just a handful of requests.
From Washington’s metropolitan police to the National Park Service to the FBI, a vast overlapping patchwork of intelligence analysts, military personnel and law enforcement officers numbering in the tens of thousands will be working to protect the inauguration and related activities.
In total, more than three dozen different agencies spread out across the capital will be working to prevent the occasion from becoming a platform for individuals or groups looking to do harm.
The costs of security alone are expected to exceed $100 million.