D.C. Rep. Norton: Remove existing fencing around Capitol Building, install 'retractable fence'

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting member of Congress, said Friday's vehicular attack at the Capitol "proves" that permanent fencing isn't needed.

Published: April 6, 2021 3:04pm

Updated: April 7, 2021 2:50pm

Democratic Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting member of the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia, told Just the News that while she supports a "retractable fence" around the U.S. Capitol, "permanent fencing" is not needed, despite the Good Friday vehicular attack at the Capitol complex that left a police officer dead.

Some lawmakers have said Friday's incident has reignited the debate over heightened security at the Capitol Building. Norton argues the latest incident confirmed the adequacy of preexisting security barriers on the grounds.

"I regard the Friday situation as a test case that proves the point I've been making, which is you do not need to surround the Capitol of the United States with fencing," Norton said during an interview on Tuesday. "The event on Friday showed that the ordinary obstacles to getting into the Capitol worked. What is tragic about Friday, of course, is that an officer lost his life, but otherwise, the barrier that is always up, stopped that man."

Norton previously said the fencing put up after the Jan. 6 mob breach of the Capitol Building made the complex look like a "concentration camp." She introduced a bill to prevent federal funds from paying for permanent fencing around the complex, legislation which garnered bipartisan support. The bill hasn't been passed yet, but the permanent fencing was starting to be removed prior to Friday's incident.

A report from Lieutenant General Russel Honore, — appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to review Capitol security after the tumultuous events of Jan. 6 — recommended a mobile fence at the U.S. Capitol.

"As the fencing comes down, we recommend it be replaced with a mobile fencing option that is easily erected and deconstructed and an integrated, retractable fencing system in the long term to secure both the Capitol Building and Congressional office buildings," read the Honore report.

Norton, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said that while the existing fencing should come down, she thinks a retractable fence is a good idea.

"We do need the retractable fence to go up, but that takes funding," she said. "I believe that funding will be forthcoming very quickly. A retractable fence would be underground. It could go up when necessary, but it would not mar the Capitol itself because most of the time you couldn't see it."

Norton said she doesn't know how much the retractable fence will cost at this time but emphasized that it should surround the entire Capitol Building. 

"Whatever the cost is, it's going to be worth it," she said. "So are the other 350 additional Capitol Police going to be worth it."

Just the News asked Norton if she thinks the retractable fence could be abused and put up every time there's a large protest taking place near the Capitol.

"I think you make a very good point," she said. "I think you could have officials using the fence when people come simply to protest. So it seems to me that ... the Capitol Police need to have their own rules and regulations about when it is necessary so they don't jump the gun and use the fence unnecessarily against peaceful protests."

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