Bowser also asked people not to counterprotest to minimize potential conflict with the groups on the right. She urged residents “not to engage with demonstrators who come to our city seeking confrontation, and we will do what we must to ensure all who attend remain peaceful,” she said in a statement.
To that end, Bowser said she would set up an emergency operations center, beginning Monday, for federal and local law enforcement to coordinate their response to the demonstrations.
Trump has urged his supporters to come to the nation’s capital on the day that Congress is scheduled to vote to certify the results of the election, which he still falsely maintains that he won.
In November and December, pro-Trump protesters — including far-right groups the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others — amassed in the District to protest the election results on two other occasions. Both days ended in violence, including stabbings and the burning of Black Lives Matter banners at several African American churches downtown.
Some experts who monitor far-right groups have warned that Wednesday’s event could be more dangerous, as groups have discussed ways to sneak guns into the District.
Bowser’s statement included a reminder that openly carrying firearms is illegal in the District, and a concealed-carry permit from another state does not permit the holder to carry a weapon in the District. Moreover, federal law bans guns on many of the sites where the protesters plan to gather Wednesday, including Freedom Plaza and the Mall, and D.C. law bans guns within 1,000 feet of a protest.
While Bowser’s suggestion that residents stay away from downtown will not be enforced by law enforcement, the city will ban street parking Tuesday through Thursday on some downtown streets, and it will close many streets to cars entirely on Tuesday and Wednesday. The street closures, which allow marchers to demonstrate in the road, are common practice in the District for large demonstrations.