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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asks feds to cancel public gatherings before inauguration

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Washington — Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday that in an effort to prevent violence during President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, and in the days before, officials are discouraging the public from coming to the event and largely blocking off access to the streets around the Capitol.

The city has also asked federal officials to cancel public gathering permits in the days before the event, but that request has not yet been granted, Bowser said. Parking garages near the Capitol will also be closed and blocked off beginning Friday.

"We have asked Americans not to come to the Washington D.C. event but to participate virtually," Bowser said, comparing the plans to how New York City handled New Year's Eve. The streets during that event, normally packed with millions of revelers, were nearly empty this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Washington has long planned for a pared-down inauguration due to the pandemic, but those preparations are now abutted by enhanced security concerns following the violent January 6 riot in which Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, leaving five dead. In the days since, federal officials have warned that groups may be planning more violence in the days leading up to inauguration.

Washington D.C. Acting Police Chief Robert Contee, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, said he has never seen an event in the city with this much security.

"This is a major security threat and we are working to mitigate those threats," Contee said.

Non-scalable fencing has been set up around the Capitol complex, and armed troops are active in the area. A Defense official told CBS News that approximately 2,000 National Guard have so far been deployed to the Capitol and they are authorized to carry arms. More will be deployed in the coming days.

The security measures also come as the House is poised to vote on impeachment against President Trump Wednesday, for the second time. The FBI is warning law enforcement across the country that groups are calling for the "storming" of federal, state and local courthouses in all 50 states if Mr. Trump is removed from office prior to Inauguration Day on January 20, a law enforcement source told CBS News.  

An article of impeachment introduced in the House earlier this week and backed by more than 200 Democrats accuses the president — who has just days left in office — of "incitement of insurrection," and says he "gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of government."

David Martin contributed to this report.

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