Airbnb, the online marketplace for vacation rentals, announced Wednesday that they are canceling all reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during Inauguration week in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
"Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C. area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations," the company said in a statement, noting that they took this action "in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel" to the nation's capital for the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
"Airbnb’s work continues to be informed by inputs from our local host community as well as Washington, D.C. officials, Metro Police and Members of Congress throughout this week," the company wrote. "In particular, Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan and Governor Northam have been clear that visitors should not travel to the D.C. Metro area for the Inauguration. Additionally, we are aware of reports emerging yesterday afternoon regarding armed militias and known hate groups that are attempting to travel and disrupt the Inauguration. "
Earlier this week, Airbnb said that they were reviewing reservations in the Washington, D.C., area, saying that they were planning to bar any guests associated with hate groups or violent activity.
Airbnb has had a policy of removing guests who are confirmed to be members of hate groups since 2017, when it blocked guests who were headed to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Airbnb said it’s also banning from its platform anyone who engaged in criminal activity in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. The company said it is cross-referencing arrest records to determine who should be removed. The company wouldn’t say Monday how many people it had removed so far.
"We are continuing our work to ensure hate group members are not part of the Airbnb community," the company said in Wednesday's statement. "As we’ve learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we’ve investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb. Through this work, we have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb’s platform."
The U.S. Capitol and Washington, D.C., will see an influx of federal troops and additional security measures in the coming days as the city prepares for Biden’s inauguration and potentially violent protests planned against his election.
On Jan. 20, the scene at the capitol will look dramatically different from Jan. 6, when the building was protected by only a thin line of Capitol Police officers. It wasn’t until hundreds of the president’s supporters pushed their way inside that the building’s police force called in D.C. officers. The National Guard arrived a couple of hours after the initial siege.
This time, the Capitol Police have requested federal help in advance. National Guard Bureau Chief General Daniel Hokanson said Monday that his department is authorized to send up to 15,000 troops to D.C., with at least 10,000 expected to arrive by this Saturday.
“As always, our first priority is to protect people and property,” Hokanson said. “The National Guard looks forward to working with our district and federal partners to ensure a peaceful inauguration.”
While the National Guard is typically called on for Inauguration Day — including 8,000 troops when President Trump was sworn in — there’s added attention on federal support after agents were delayed last Wednesday.
The Secret Service will take the lead on inauguration security, since they are responsible for planning and executing operations for any National Special Security Event (NSSE).
Prior to the news of his resignation on Monday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf designated inauguration as an NSSE starting Wednesday, Jan. 13, six days earlier than planned, citing “events of the past week.”
“Most security is now built on a scenario type basis,” said Dr. Scott White, director of the cybersecurity program at George Washington University. “It wouldn't surprise me that this type of scenario would now be built into the security plan. Perhaps it wasn't there before. The idea of several thousands of people storming the Capitol.”
The news of boosted security came as the FBI issued a warning about planned protests in D.C. starting as early as Jan. 17, along with others at state capitols around the country, according to an ABC News report.
“There’s this inherent conspiracy-oriented nature to [these organizations],” Dr. White said. “This will be a date that, you know, now lives with their organization, as a proud day of uprising.”
President-elect Biden told reporters Monday that he's "not afraid" of taking his oath of office outside, despite the threat of another large gathering at the Capitol Building.
The D.C. police department has already activated its entire police force and will keep them on standby through the inauguration, an all-hands-on-deck approach they took on Jan. 6 as well.
On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urged Americans to stay away from the city during next week’s inauguration and instead watch the event virtually. She expressed hope about the city’s preparation to handle new threats.
“We also know that Trumpism won’t die on January 20, but our American values and our D.C. values are stronger than one ideology,” Bowser said Monday. “We will overcome this extremism together.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.