Lawmakers directed to use underground tunnels during electoral college certification amid fears of violence

House sergeant-at-arms urges officials to arrive early and make use of security checkpoints during an unpredictable day

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 05 January 2021 20:52 GMT
Mike Pence heckled at Georgia rally to challenge election result on 6 January
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Security officials have warned lawmakers to use underground tunnels while convening to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden, amid a rise in tensions sparked by President Donald Trump’s failure to concede in the race.

The instructions, sent by the House sergeant-at-arms on Monday, predicted “demonstration activity and street closures” when lawmakers convene this week to certify the 2020 presidential election.

Mr Trump has continued to promote outright falsities and conspiracy theories about his electoral defeat despite evidence showing the vote was conducted free of fraud. In fact, the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security both released statements refuting the president’s claims and effectively describing the election as the most secure in US history.

And yet the president and his allies on Capitol Hill have continued their undemocratic efforts to overturn the results, with several Republican representatives and senators joining together to announce their plans to contest the certification on Wednesday.

Their efforts won’t prevent Mr Biden from becoming the next president of the United States, though they will almost certainly cause an hours-long spectacle on the Senate floor – something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped to prevent, urging his Republican colleagues on a conference call during the weekend to abstain from contesting the election.

Meanwhile, protests were planned near Capitol Hill and reports of potential violence followed the arrest of the leader of a far-right group known as the Proud Boys.

Enrique Tarrio, the 36-year-old head of the neo-fascist organisation known for sparking violence at political events, was arrested shortly before the certification of the election and charged with destruction of property over a December incident.

Mr Tarrio “was found to be in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines” at the time of his arrest, police spokesperson Sean Hickman said in a statement to the Washington Post.

As the newspaper reported, his arrest could be connected to law enforcement efforts to thwart potential violence during the election certification.

While it’s not uncommon for lawmakers to access the underground tunnel system to attend votes and committee hearings, the warnings form the House sergeant-at-arms reflected the increasing controversy surrounding the typically mundane procedural event.

Lawmakers also received contact information to use in the event of an emergency and were encouraged to use security access points while arriving early for the certification on Wednesday.

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