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DC Jitters: Inauguration Rehearsal Is Evacuated

Smoke from a nearby homeless encampment caused a scare
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2021 10:15 AM CST

(Newser) – The US Capitol complex temporarily locked down Monday during a rehearsal for President-elect Biden's inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment about a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns, per the AP. But law enforcement officials said there was no threat to the public, and the fire wasn't believed to be a threat to the inauguration. The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials said. District of Columbia firefighters responded and put out the fire. Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday morning, wasn't participating in the rehearsal.

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The scare comes amid ramped-up security after the Jan. 6 riot. The city center is essentially on lockdown, with streets blocked, high fencing installed, and tens of thousands of National Guard and other law enforcement officers stationed around the area. Participants were ushered from the West Front of the Capitol. Those who had gathered for a walk-through, including a military band, were directed to head indoors and moved in the direction of a secure location inside the Capitol complex. People involved in the rehearsal said security officials yelled, "This is not a drill." (The FBI is investigating whether a rioter who allegedly took a laptop from Nancy Pelosi's office planned to sell it to Russia.)

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