Following the riot at the U.S. Capitol, security has ballooned on Capitol Hill in preparation for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and to quell and prevent any repeat violence from pro-Trump activists or other radicals seeking to cause chaos.
Authorities initially activated a few thousand unarmed National Guard troops for security, noting that they were serving at the Capitol in a support role. But that changed this week.
Since the Jan. 6 riot, government officials have become increasingly concerned over security in the days leading up to Inauguration Day — both in the District of Columbia and at capitols in all 50 states — as the FBI has warned of threats of violence across the nation.
In response to the credible threats of violence, federal officials ordered 20,000 National Guard troops to the nation's capital, according to U.S. News & World Report.
On Tuesday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy authorized the thousands of troops providing security in the area around the Capitol to use lethal force, New York Times reported.
"On January 12, 2021, National Guardsmen were given authorization to be armed in support of the U.S. Capitol Police to protect the U.S. Capitol and individual members of Congress and their staff," D.C. National Guard said in a statement cited by U.S. News & World Report.
"Guardsmen are trained in the use of lethal and less-than-lethal force, de-escalation techniques, as well as the use of protective equipment. This is standard for civil disturbance response missions," the statement continued. "The National Guard is proud to support the Secret Service, U.S. Capitol Police and Park Police who are leading the security efforts during the events for the 59th Presidential Inauguration."
The move was "requested by federal authorities and authorized by the Secretary of the Army," Military.com reported. The National Guard Bureau did not specify what weapons the troops would be carrying.
McCarthy made his decision after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "demanded that the Pentagon take a more muscular posture after a mob, egged on by President Trump last week, breached the Capitol," the Times said.
According the the Times, Defense Department officials are worried about protests planned for Inauguration Day, saying that 16 groups have registered to stage protests, most of them "hard-line supporters" of President Donald Trump. And some of the groups have stated they will be armed, despite the fact that firearms are illegal in the district.