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Del. Norton introduces bill to ban permanent fencing at Capitol, blasts 'security theater'

Currently, the Capitol is surrounded by three miles of steel and razor wire fencing that was installed after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

WASHINGTON — D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the "No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act" on Thursday. The bill would ban the installation of permanent fencing on the Capitol grounds.

Currently, the Capitol is surrounded by three miles of steel and razor wire fencing that was installed after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The acting chief of U.S. Capitol Police has recommended some kind of fencing be permanent.

For now, neighbors and visitors alike remain cut off from the area if they don't have official business.

Norton called the fencing security theater that's less effective than "smarter, state-of-the-art solutions." She did not offer details on what those might be.

RELATED: Capitol fencing preventing DC lawmakers from delivering legislation to Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced the No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act, which would prohibit the installation of permanent fencing on the grounds of the United States Capitol complex.

“Permanent fencing would send an un-American message to the nation and the world, by transforming our democracy from one that is accessible and of the people to one that is exclusive and fearful of its own citizens,” Norton said. “Already, the distance between government and the people has grown, with trust in government at historic lows. We should not entrench that distance further by placing intimidating barriers between ourselves as public servants and the people we serve, especially when such barriers are neither effective nor necessary."

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman, however, is calling for permanent fencing and back-up security at the Capitol to prevent another riot.

"In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol," Pittman said in a statement two weeks ago.

While Pittman is asking for the permanent fencing and security measures to be in place, nothing has been decided yet as it's ultimately a congressional decision.

RELATED: Don't want the Capitol to be fenced off? Here's how we could still protect it

Her perspective has some support though, even among Del. Norton's fellow Democrats.

"Yes, we will have to look at perimeter and presence of lawmakers," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D- Minn.), who serves as chairman of the Rules Committee, said in an interview Thursday morning on CBS This Morning. "We can’t go back to things as they were. To protect not just us but the officers, we’re going to have to look at some changes."

In her remarks introducing the bill, Norton said security experts are already brainstorming new, innovative ways to protect the Capitol without permanent fencing. She asked her colleagues to “foster that dialogue and welcome fresh ideas, not default to an archaic security strategy that humans invented over 10,000 years ago."

"The failure of Capitol security leaders to plan for the predictable and openly announced attack on the Capitol does not justify closing the complex from the public, to whom it belongs," Norton said.

Security perimeters around D.C. have been expanding for decades, from the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in 1995, following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City to the bollards and barriers that went up around all federal buildings after the 9/11 attacks.

"We will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.," Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted in January. 

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