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D.C. closes Metro stations, federal workers to stay home through inauguration

Military personnel patrol near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Military personnel patrol near the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Some Metro stations will close in Washington, D.C., on Friday ahead of Wednesday' s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, and many federal workers will work from home due to threats of more violence.

At least 20,000 National Guard troops have been called up to guard the District of Columbia until after Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in. Intelligence reports indicate radical supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump could attempt to foster more unrest after last week's assault on the U.S. Capitol building.

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Barricades have gone up around the city, roads have been closed and security fencing has been installed for blocks around the Capitol, the site of the inauguration.

On Friday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is closing 11 train stations that serve the Capitol area and the National Mall -- a commemorative section of the city that spans several miles and includes the White House, Washington Monument and memorials honoring Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and soldiers from World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

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Two other Metro stations will close on Saturday, transportation officials said, and more than two dozen bus routes that typically pass through the downtown area will be detoured.

The closures will run through Thursday.

"We are working closely with our regional and federal partners to keep the public safe during this national special security event and to discourage travel within the secure zone," Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement.

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"While we are supporting law enforcement plans to enhance security, we are also keeping essential services in place for our residents who need to get to work, to medical appointments and to grocery stores."

A "national special security event" is a federal designation by the Homeland Security Department for any event that poses a threat of terrorism or other significant harm.

The department originally set the security event timeline to begin on Tuesday, but moved it up after last week's attack on the Capitol, which killed five people. The period officially began on Wednesday.

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The designation means the U.S. Secret Service and other authorities are safeguarding various federal offices in Washington.

The Office of Personnel Management, an independent agency of the federal government that manages the U.S. civilian workforce, sent a memorandum to agencies instructing them to use "all available workplace flexibilities" between Friday and two days after the inauguration -- which includes allowing some employees to work remotely over the next week.

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"OPM strongly encourages agencies to allow such employees to telework, where possible, to keep the federal government operating while helping to minimize traffic congestion and support law enforcement efforts during these events," the memo said.

"Employees may also request to use their alternative work schedule day off, annual leave, leave without pay, previously earned compensatory time off, and/or earned credit hours under a flexible work schedule."

Inauguration Day is a paid holiday for federal employees in Washington, D.C.

UNITE HERE Local 25, a union that represents more than 7,000 hotel workers in Washington, this week encouraged all area hotels to close for several days around the inauguration, citing the potential for violence.

"The best way to guarantee the safety of hotel workers and district residents is to keep [armed] groups out of the city and out of its hotels," the union said in a statement.

"That is why, unless hotels in the immediate metro area are hosting the National Guard or other security personnel, they should close immediately."

Property rental company Airbnb this week said it is canceling and blocking reservations for the D.C. area for the period around the inauguration.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Biden's transition team have encouraged people to watch the inauguration online and stay out of the city. The Capitol complex will be closed to the public for the event.



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