Temporary extra fencing has been erected around the White House, plywood affixed to storefronts in Manhattan and the National Guard put on notice in Portland, Oregon, as U.S. cities braced for possible unrest on election day.
“We don’t see specific reports or threats at this point,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters Monday. “We are ready for all sorts of challenges. A lot of preparation has been happening over the last few weeks and I’m meeting with city officials today to continue that preparation.”
Most midtown Manhattan storefronts have been boarded up on Fifth and Madison Avenues, though the mayor said the city hadn’t advised businesses to take such steps.
Similar calculations were being made across the country as a campaign marked by unusual rancor and harsh rhetoric gives way to a final day of voting Tuesday — followed by a potentially long period of vote counting that will determine if President Donald Trump receives a second term or Joe Biden gets sworn in come January.
In Washington, a likely focus for demonstrations, shops and other businesses located within several blocks of the White House already closed their doors on Monday, with some planning to stay shuttered the rest of the week or longer.
Nearly a dozen organized protests, assemblies and prayer vigils received permits from the National Park Service for organized actions this week. Multiple permits have been filed with the city for large gatherings as well, including an eight-hour demonstration with a giant digital screen and live music scheduled for election night that may draw thousands to the recently christened Black Lives Matter Plaza across a park from the White House.
Unsanctioned protests are almost certain, too, especially in the wake of the death of Karon Hylton, a young Black man who died in a crash on his moped while being followed closely by a police cruiser in the national capital on October 23.
Security staff were erecting temporary fencing around the White House and adjacent public grounds, much like the security barrier that the administration built to seal off the Ellipse and Lafayette Square during tense protests over the summer.
City police have closed dozens of blocks downtown, effective shortly after midnight Tuesday through Wednesday, including around the Trump International Hotel.
Some businesses remained undaunted. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, one of a handful of downtown Washington museums, planned to remain open this week even as it put boards up over its doors. Eaton Workshop — a hotel and co-working space that has billed itself as the “anti-Trump hotel” — said it would provide paid time off for casting ballots or volunteering at polling sites.
“Our security team is following the protocols suggested by law enforcement and our operating hours and procedures tomorrow are the same as they have been and as prescribed by the city’s Covid-19 phased reopening,” said Sheldon Scott, director of culture for Eaton D.C.
A memo to faculty and staff from leaders at George Washington University, which has a campus located just blocks from the White House, suggested that people plan to bunker down: “We suggest preparing for the Election Day period as you would for a hurricane or a snowstorm,” the memo reads.
In Denver, businesses boarded up windows on the 16th Street Mall after being caught off guard and ransacked during anti-police riots earlier in the year.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot late last week announced a 10-day plan aimed at encouraging voting and keeping protests peaceful while the city also tries to curb a resurgence of Covid-19.
The city has put residents and businesses on alert and could shut down parts of the metropolis if needed, Lightfoot said. Police are increasing patrols, and trucks and other heavy equipment from various departments will be stationed to block access in certain neighborhoods and business corridors.
The Los Angeles Police Department said it is coordinating with state agencies and training its officers on crowd control and management in preparation for any election-related protest activities.
About 250 pro-Trump supporters gathered in Beverly Hills on Sunday in what police described as a peaceful protest. A handful of the president’s supporters also cruised along Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles’s Studio City neighborhood, waving flags and honking horns — but they were largely ignored by diners sitting outside at restaurants such as Art’s Delicatessen.
In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown on Monday issued an executive order for the National Guard to be deployed if local and state law enforcement agencies need help in Portland, which has seen violent clashes between local demonstrators and federal authorities since early summer.
Law enforcement officers will be authorized to use tear gas if necessary. The governor said destruction of property would not be tolerated.
“I want to be very very clear that voter intimidation and political violence will not be tolerated, not from the left not from the right not from the center,” Brown said.
–With assistance from Christopher Palmeri, Vincent Del Giudice, Olga Kharif and Shruti Date Singh.
Main photograph: Workers board up the windows of the Macy’s Inc. department store in New York, on Oct. 31. Source: Bloomberg.
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