Capitol locked down, Biden inauguration rehearsal stopped due to security threat

Participants, including a military marching band, evacuated from outside the Capitol after fire breaks out in a nearby homeless camp.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The U.S. Capitol Building was “briefly” locked down Monday after a fire was reported several blocks away at a homeless camp under a bridge, The Hill reported.

“All buildings with the Capitol Complex: Due to an external security threat located under the bridge on I-295 at First and F Streets SE, no entry or exit is permitted at this time,” said an e-mail alert sent to all lawmakers and tweeted by a reporter for The Hill. “You may move throughout the building, but stay away from exterior windows and doors. If you are outside, seek cover.”

U.S. Capitol Police issued a statement saying: “There are currently no fires on or within the Capitol campus. Members and staff were advised to shelter in place while the incident is being investigated.” Police added that they were using an “abundance of caution.”

The alert came during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and participants were evacuated from the area in front of the Capitol building, the AP reported. Pictures from the scene showed dozens of people who were participating in the rehearsal, including a military band, either entering the Capitol building or running for cover.

People involved in the rehearsal told the AP that security officials yelled, “This is not a drill.”

The evacuation happened around 10:30 a.m. local time. Reporters noted that smoke could be seen rising in the distance behind the Capitol, The Hill reported, adding that the D.C. Fire Department said that the fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported.

The Capitol is currently operating as a military zone ahead of Biden’s inauguration scheduled for Wednesday, with up to 25,000 National Guard troops reinforcing local police to boost security and prevent a recurrence of the riot on Jan. 6 in which Capitol Police were overwhelmed by hundreds who stormed the building in an attack that caused five deaths.

As of Monday, the Department of Justice reported that at least 69 people have been arrested for taking part in the attack on the Capitol. The FBI says its investigation is continuing to “aggressively pursue those involved in criminal activity during the events of January 6.”