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‘I’m very worried’: public transport safety officials brace for chaos

“We did it four years ago and even four years ago. But this is the first time that we have put in place a plan where there has been an active attack on the institutions of our democracy, “Dotson told his officers.” It is a threat as serious as I have it. view. , potentially, in my career.

Dotson said Amtrak Union Station in Washington, DC, was relatively quiet during the Jan.6 riots and that in fact, people seeking to escape the unrest ended up taking refuge there. The train station and cavernous shopping district are a few blocks from the Capitol complex.

“When the activities on Capitol Hill turned violent, people who … didn’t want anything to do with it sought refuge,” Dotson said. “So they came to our station. Still, he said his officers had to face off with some rally participants who didn’t like Amtrak’s mask requirement.

Of particular concern is how to protect members of Congress at airports, after several viral videos last week showed lawmakers trying to catch flights surrounded by aggressive crowds. Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, was not loyal enough for crowds of Trump supporters who surrounded him at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, shouting “traitor.”

Hoping to avoid that next week, airports, airlines and security agencies have started some intense collaborations, including keeping an eye out for flights that will carry lawmakers. Plans are also being developed to ensure lawmakers will have safe places to wait, such as airline lounges, and potentially escorts in public spaces, according to an airport representative familiar with the discussions. In some cases, Federal Marshals may accompany their flights.

Meanwhile, the FAA has warned that he will launch the book to unruly passengers following multiple incidents of people disrupting flights to and from Washington.

“Over the past few days we have seen a worrying increase in incidents on board where airline passengers disrupted flights,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told CNBC on Thursday. “These incidents are due, in some cases, to refusal to follow airline policies on face coverings, and we also saw a trend after the Capitol violation last week.

The FAA has the power to fine passengers up to $ 35,000 and to seek jail time if their behavior threatens other passengers or the plane. The agency said it would look to these tougher penalties instead of the warnings and other slaps on the wrist that it has pursued in some past cases. The FAA said the new policy would be in effect until March 30.

Calls have increased for rioters on Capitol Hill to be added to the federal no-fly list, including from new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and members of the Homeland Security Committee of the Bedroom.

The FBI did not disclose whether it added to the list of those involved in the January 6 riots, but said in a statement to POLITICO it “will continue to designate pre-defined subjects on the federal watch list of the terrorism, where applicable, in accordance with existing laws and policies. “

The agency further noted that local law enforcement and agencies could detain or arrest anyone deemed to pose an immediate threat to other airline passengers or to the plane, “which would effectively prevent them to fly”. And airlines, which maintain their own lists of people who are no longer welcome on their planes, could refuse service to people if they disrupt.

In a statement, TSA administrator David Pekoske said his agency works to ensure that anyone who may pose a threat is either subject to “increased scrutiny” or is prevented from boarding an aircraft. plane. In addition, he said that additional security had been put in place at the three airports in the region, including canine teams and an increased number of air marshals on flights. TSA agents will also bolster other security forces deployed in the city, including helping to screen people along the parade route and during the inauguration itself.

Washington, DC’s transit system is also gearing up. Last week, managers and cleaners at the Metrorail station advised by their union – Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transportation Union – to go behind the scenes to protect themselves.

“A lot of those who came here refused to wear masks,” said Carroll Thomas, vice president and chief security officer of ATU Local 689. “They had weapons. They had all kinds of things. Our members were afraid for their lives.

Metro announced that it will close 13 stations in the security perimeter around the White House and the Capitol from Friday to Thursday after the inauguration.

Additionally, Amtrak and its employee unions have called on the federal government to expand TSA’s no-fly list to include passenger rail.

The groups said they wanted a “proportional worker presence in the passenger compartments of Amtrak trains, similar to that in the airline industry, with at least one conductor or assistant conductor present for every 50 passengers,” according to the group. a statement released this week.

While most of the concerns so far have centered on the inauguration and the days immediately surrounding it, the heightened vigilance and security put in place for this event may not end soon.

“I’m very worried about next week as the inaugural week, but I don’t think the week after all of a sudden people are going to be like, ‘Let’s all come on, let’s move on,’ the official said. from the airport. “I think we are in a period of heightened tensions in our country, and this will have an impact on the airports as well as on almost every other part of society.”

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