Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), at a House hearing today on the effects of sequestration, said that following yesterday's tragedy in Boston, the U.S. Park Police, the Federal Protective Service and other federal police have been put in the agonizing position of protecting visitors and residents in the nation's capital while maintaining an open, free-flowing city at the height of the tourist season despite the across-the-board sequester cuts to police services. "D.C.'s heart and prayers are first with Boston today, but then we must turn to the precautions necessary to protect hometown D.C. and the nation's capital while keeping the city open and accessible to residents and tourists alike," said Norton. "The Boston tragedy comes at a time of year when urban America, particularly D.C., is out and about. Our response to the tragedy in Boston must not be surrender to terrorism or retreat in fear or to allow scarcity of the resources necessary to keep our people safe. In solidarity with Boston, we must show determination, especially here, to remain a nation's capital always protected, safe and at all times open to all."
Norton said that the Boston Marathon attack is "not what we expected but is certainly what we have feared since 9/11" -- an attack on a large crowd at an outdoor event. She said that she is making inquiries about resources, but she has no doubt that our federal and D.C. police forces in particular are skilled and prepared. She cited the precautions long taken to control and protect crowds at large events here -- for example, inaugurations, the July 4th and Labor Day. "Years of practical experience and success at controlling crowds at some of the largest outdoor events in the country have given the nation's capital a network of practiced police forces that are the best in the country," said Norton. The Boston Marathon drew 20,000 runners and a half-million spectators scattered along the way. The last inauguration drew roughly 1 million people packed on the National Mall.
Norton said that federal and D.C. police are alert to expect the unexpected. After the Boston bombing, citizens may be more understanding when a stray bag or suspicious vehicle causes delay, Norton observed. But she warned that expecting the unexpected also means that when terrorists cannot get weapons or explosives into high-profile buildings, they may move to softer non-government targets or to outdoor crowds, as in Boston.
Norton, who marched in the D.C. Emancipation Day parade today, said, "D.C. is one of the nation's great marathon, parade, and outdoor event cities -- and we are going to stay that way. We will not tolerate the barricade approach to terrorism that creates a police state atmosphere in the freest capital city in the world. We have learned much from our past experience with incidents and our success in protecting the city. Our police forces have become professional security officers. Give them the resources they need and they will do what is necessary to keep the capital city safe, open, and the pride of the nation."