Metal fencing surrounding Capitol in wake of the Jan. 6 riot now coming down

On Saturday, photos captured people walking freely to the Capitol building.

July 10, 2021, 1:23 PM

The 7-foot-tall, black, metal fencing set up to fortify the U.S. Capitol in wake of the Jan. 6 siege is coming down.

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Workers were seen Friday prepping the fencing and barriers for removal, cutting through the clamps and wires that connect the pieces. They then began to dismantle the fencing following Tropical Storm Elsa's exit from the Mid-Atlantic. By late Friday, the barricade around the Supreme Court was completely removed. On Saturday, photos captured people walking freely to the Capitol building.

PHOTO: Members of the public walk freely on the Capitol plaza as workers remove security fencing surrounding the Capitol, July 10, 2021.
Members of the public walk freely on the Capitol plaza as workers remove security fencing surrounding the Capitol, July 10, 2021. The security fence was erected in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol and will be mostly removed this weekend.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
PHOTO: People walk to the U.S. Capitol after workers remove the fence surrounding the U.S. Capitol building, after six months of being erected following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, July 10, 2021, in Washington.
People walk to the U.S. Capitol after workers remove the fence surrounding the U.S. Capitol building, after six months of being erected following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, July 10, 2021, in Washington.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

The Capitol Police Board, the oversight body supervising security on Capitol Hill, approved plans to begin removing the remaining temporary fencing around the Capitol on Friday, according to a memo sent to House offices and obtained by ABC News.

Removal was expected to take up to three days, good weather permitting.

PHOTO: Workers remove the fence surrounding the Capitol building, July 10, 2021.
Workers remove the fence surrounding the Capitol building, six months after it was erected, following the Jan. 6 riot which breached the Capitol in Washington, July 10, 2021.
Jose Luis Magana/AP
PHOTO: A worker removes bolts holding security fencing that surrounds the Capitol, July 9, 2021.
A worker removes bolts holding security fencing that surrounds the Capitol, July 9, 2021.
Al Drago/Reuters

"Based on USCP’s assessment of the current threat environment and USCP’s enhanced coordination with District of Columbia, neighboring state and federal law enforcement partners, the Board supports USCP’s recommendation to remove the temporary fencing around Capitol Square," said a memo from House Sergeant at Arms William Walker sent to Congressional offices and obtained by ABC News.

"USCP will continue to monitor intelligence information and the associated threat environment. The Architect of the Capitol has the ability to and will expeditiously reinstall the temporary fencing should conditions warrant," the memo continued.

The House Sergeant at Arms also noted that despite the metal fencing coming down there are still limits on public access to the building due to restrictions put in place when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

PHOTO: Workers prepare to dismantle fences around the Capitol, July 9, 2021.
Workers prepare to dismantle fences around the Capitol, July 9, 2021.
Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

"Although the temporary fencing will be removed, current building access restrictions will remain in place," the memo said.

The fencing has been around the Capitol since after the Jan. 6 attack when security measures were sharply stepped up in the aftermath of the violent assault by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump.

An earlier rally turned deadly after Trump encouraged his supporters to march to Capitol Hill, where Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden's election win.

Rioters then breached barricades and security checkpoints, forcing then-Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers to evacuate or shelter in place, temporarily disrupting the certification. Five people died during or after the riot, 140 police officers were injured and the Capitol building suffered approximately $1.5 million in damage.

PHOTO: Illustration
Fencing that has been around the Capitol since after the Jan. 6 attack is coming down starting Friday, July 9, Capitol officials said.
ABC News: Maps Data: © Google, 2021

Democratic D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton celebrated the announcement of the fencing coming down on Thursday, though with a hint of caution about how free the complex will be.

"While I am seeking further information about the bike racks that will apparently be used to block access to parts of the Lower West Terrace and East Front of the Capitol, overall, the announcement is a victory for D.C. residents, local businesses and the American people," she said.

Back in February, Norton introduced a bill in Congress, which has not passed, called "No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act" to block the use of federal funds for any fencing at the Capitol.

"This announcement finally vindicates my campaign against fencing off the Capitol," she said Thursday. "We will never again allow our Capitol Hill neighborhood to be turned into a military zone any more than the Capitol itself."

An even larger, outer permitter of the non-scalable fencing was reduced by late March to contain just the Capitol grounds -- a move approved by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has also rejected calls for permanent fencing in the nation's capital.

PHOTO: Illustration
An even larger perimeter of temporary fencing was erected around the Capitol after the Jan. 6 attack, but it was reduced in late March.
ABC News, Maps Data, © Google, 2021

"When the time is right, the fencing around the White House and U.S. Capitol, just like the plywood we’ve seen on our businesses for far too long, will be taken down," Bowser tweeted back in January when the fencing went up.

In May, the House passed a $1.9 billion spending bill that Democrats argued would bolster the Capitol’s police force and improve the complex’s security without the need for permanent fencing around the People's House. That legislation is currently stuck in the Senate

ABC News' Libby Cathey, Beatrice Peterson, Luke Barr, Alexander Mallin, Benjamin Siu and Marlene Lenthang contributed to this report.

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