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Trump declares State of Emergency: where and what does it mean?

The President has agreed to provide FEMA and the Department of Home Security resources to protect Washington, DC after threats to Biden's inauguration.

Trump declares State of Emergency: where and what does it mean?
ERIN SCOTT REUTERS

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President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Washington DC ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration on 20 January. Announced on Monday in a White House statement, the “emergency conditions” came into effect immediately and will last until 24 January.

The move comes five days after a pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ rally, initiated and encouraged by the President, saw a mob of protesters break into the Houses of Congress and left five people dead.

What does the state of emergency mean?

Trump has invoked Title V of the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide federal support for state and local government. The legislation, most typically used to offer assistance after a natural disaster, allows the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist Washington city authorities with their response.

A White House statement issued on behalf on Trump on Monday “ordered Federal assistance to supplement the District’s response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from the 59th Presidential Inauguration”. No specific threats were mentioned in the brief statement but law enforcement are aware of multiple threats to Washington landmarks in the build up to Inauguration Day.

As such, the additional support is provided “to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the District of Columbia.” The FEMA assistance will be provided with 100% federal funding and provides additional authorisation to identify, mobilise and provide whatever resources are required to ensure that the situation remains safe in the Washington.

Mayor Bowser repeats call for federal support

As insurrectionists were swarming the Capitol last Wednesday Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was publically demanding greater federal support to assist the overwhelmed state police presence. Bowser had called for National Guard assistance in the build-up to the Trump rally in Washington, but was initially denied the support needed by the Pentagon, Trump’s Defence Department.

Obviously it was a failure, or you would not have had police lines breached and people enter the Capitol building by breaking windows and terrorizing the people,” said Bowser on the law enforcement response to last Wednesday’s attack. “Clearly there was a failure there.”

Bowser had appealed to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Sunday, calling for a pre-disaster declaration to be declared to help the city prepare for the Inauguration. However despite now getting the assistance, Wolf announced his resignation from the role on Monday citing “recent events” as part of the reason. Wolf is said to have be extremely disturbed by the events of last week and publically called for Trump to condemn the violence the day after the attack on the Capitol.

Real threat of “mob violence” ahead of Inauguration Day

Trump’s decision to declare a state of emergency comes as law enforcement experts are warning of a continued threat to safety for the inauguration of President-elect Biden. Brian Harrell, former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, has revealed that he believes there is on ongoing threat to peace in Washington.

"Soft targets, crowded places, and critical infrastructure remain an attractive target to domestic terrorists and to those who wish to embarrass the government," Harrell told Newsweek.

"I fully expect violence in the streets," he continued. "The biggest concerns will be the introduction of weapons, mob violence outside of the secure perimeter, and the deliberate targeting of critical infrastructure.”

 

On Monday, CNN reported that an FBI bulletin had indicated that their evidence suggests armed protests are being planned at the capitol buildings of all 50 states, included Washington DC. The report also mentions potential threats to Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and current Vice President Mike Pence.