Protective wood boards are placed on the front of the McPherson Building on October 28, 2020 near the White House in Washington, DC.
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Washington DC is bracing itself ahead of the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday.
Three people who live in the capital told Business Insider that while Washington is still pretty quiet, there’s a “tension in the air” and an atmosphere of “uncertainty” as more people fear post-election violence.
Some businesses in the capital have started boarding up, while law enforcement officials are planning for confrontation as several groups have already applied for demonstration permits.
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Two days before the US election, Washington DC is holding its breath.
The nation’s capital is no stranger to seeing demonstrations unfold on its streets, but this time around, the uncertainty and anticipation surrounding the 2020 election outcome feels different.
“It feels like the calm before the storm,” Taylor Rea, a 27-year-old consultant who lives in Washington, told Business Insider.
“I am just nervous about the results of the election … there’s a lot of uncertainty of what’s going to happen regardless of who wins” she added.
Rea, who lives in a neighborhood close to the White House, told Business Insider that while she doesn’t fear for her safety, she has a backup option if the aftermath of the election does become violent.
“Thankfully, my parents and boyfriend live nearby and both have cars, so I do have the option of leaving if I feel like I need to,” she said.
Protective wood paneling is installed at a CVS pharmacy as businesses near the White House for secure stores as worries about election unrest mount in Washington DC, on October 29, 2020.
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According to a recent YouGov poll, 74% of Americans think there will be violence following the results of the 2020 presidential election, half (53%) of which say there will be a lot of violence, while 21% say they expect a little.
But while the fear seems to be there, the city looks relatively calm from the outside.
Pictures of Washinton DC on social media on Friday showed becalmed streets, police officers setting up concrete barriers in front of Lafayette Square, and some business owners boarding up their shops out of precaution.
“There is definitely some tension in the air. Downtown shops are boarding up again, which they did before when some of the BLM protests in early summer turned a bit violent,” Laura Garcia, 24, who also lives in Washington DC, told Business Insider.
Garcia, who was living in DC during the 2016 election, says she has noticed a shift among her social circles regarding people’s involvement in politics.
“I do feel like people, in general, are a lot more passionate about politics than they were four years ago, which is a good thing,” Garcia said.
“I just kind of want to get it done and over with,” she added.
The city is preparing itself in the run-up to the election
Police announced this week that street closures and parking restrictions will cover much of downtown in the days to come.
George Washington University has sent students a message recommending they stockpile a week’s worth of food and supplies to prepare for Election Day, according to the Washington Post.
City officials have advised shop owners to sign up for crime alerts in their area and to keep their insurance information on hand.
The CEO of ServiceChannel — a company that connects national retail chains to local contractors that protect and repair stores and the assets inside them — told Business Insider on Friday that the firm has seen an influx of requests for preventive board-ups and enhanced security measures.
“What [the retailers] determined is that regardless of who wins, there’s likely to be some turmoil around the election,” CEO Tom Buiocchi told Business Insider. “That turmoil has manifested itself, at least this year, in social unrest and protests, so they decided they need to get in front of it and protect their key locations.”
Washington DC sees an increasing police presence
But it’s not just businesses that are preparing themselves for possible unrest.
According to NBC News sources, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been told for the first time by the Department of Homeland Security to remain on standby to protect federal property in the capital, on or after Election Day.
Protest against the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd outside White House in Washington
“It is widely believed that there will be civil unrest after the November election regardless of who wins,” DC Police Chief Peter Newsham told lawmakers earlier this month, according to the Post.
“It is also believed that there is a strong chance of unrest when Washington, DC, hosts the inauguration in January,” Newsham added.
While law enforcement officials say there have been no specific threats, they have said that several groups have applied for demonstration permits in the city starting Sunday and for days after the election.
‘Militia groups and other armed non-state actors pose a serious threat’
According to Viana Ferguson, a former Facebook content moderator who spoke at the Real Facebook Oversight event last week, users have become more vocal about the “violence they are willing to execute” toward people in the previous few months.
“We’ve applied lessons from previous elections, hired experts, and built new teams with experience across different areas to prepare for various scenarios,” a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider.
Other organizations are also keeping a close eye on any groups that could incite violence.
“Militia groups and other armed non-state actors pose a serious threat to the safety and security of American voters,” the nonprofit organization Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project told the Washington Post.
In a recent report published by the organization, researchers tracked more than 80 extremist groups in recent months. They said that Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon “are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period.”
In Portland, Oregon, the scene of months of violent protests, right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view. Left-wing organizers are preparing to be there as well.
A counter-protester raises his hands in front of a far right militia as various militia groups stage rallies in downtown Stone Mountain, Georgia, U.S. August 15, 2020.
“There have been demonstrations on the streets for so many months now, and all over the country, so there is no doubt in my mind that think there will be some sort of protests,” Joshua Blatt, a 27-year old graduate student, told Business Insider.
“The very fact that we’re talking about the potential of any sort of violence, shows the massive changes that have occurred in the last few years. Nobody is laughing off the possibility anymore, which is worrying,” he said.
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
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The Treasury has upped its offer on federal coronavirus spending by some $100 billion as it continues negotiations with Democrats, Roll Call reported.
The politics news site reported that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered a $1.62 trillion package when talking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday.
They didn’t reach a deal Wednesday but committed to keep trying, Roll Call said. But even if they do strike a deal, it could still struggle to make it through Congress.
The two parties have been in a standoff as Democrats seek to secure much more spending than Republicans.
One source of agreement is that both Mnuchin and Pelosi want another round of $1,200 checks to be sent to Americans.
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The Treasury is increasing the amount of money it would support for a new coronavirus spending bill as it continues to negotiate with Democrats, Roll Call reported Wednesday night.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered a $1.62 trillion package in his Wednesday talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the report said.
The increased offer is said to include more money for education and state and local governments than before.
Pelosi and Mnuchin met for 90 minutes without striking a deal. But after, both seemed hopeful of continuing negotiations and reaching some kind of agreement.
One issue that is not in question: Both sides have said they support another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
This week has been the first major negotiation on more federal spending to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic since talks most recently collapsed in August.
The parties have been trying to find common ground, with Democrats seeking a more expansive package: They have proposed spending $2.2 trillion. Republicans have argued for a far smaller amount.
After meeting Pelosi, Mnuchin told Fox Business that he would aim for somewhere between $2.2 trillion and an earlier offer of about $1 trillion.
“We’re not going to do a $2.2 trillion deal,” he said.
Mnuchin said President Donald Trump “instructed us to come up significantly, so we have come up from the trillion-dollar deal that we were working on earlier.”
He said the White House proposal was in the “neighborhood” of $1.5 trillion.
The politics site Roll Call said the following measures were in the latest version of the Treasury offer. The details have not been confirmed publicly or by other news outlets.
Direct payments of $1,200 for adults and $500 for dependents, which Democrats had signaled support for.$250 billion for state and local governments ($186 billion less than Democrats proposed but $100 billion more than in the White House’s previous offer).$150 billion for education (Democrats want $225 billion).$400 a week in additional unemployment insurance ($200 less than Democrats proposed but $100 more than Senate Republicans proposed).$75 billion for COVID-19 testing and tracing (this meets Democrats’ demand, while Republicans had offered $16 billion).$175 billion for healthcare (Democrats had proposed $249 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services).$10 billion for the US Postal Service (Democrats had proposed $25 billion and then dropped it to $15 billion).$160 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.Nearly $120 billion for businesses like restaurants and entertainment venues.$20 billion for farmers and ranchers.Negotiations are underway
It is not clear whether Senate Republicans would support such a proposal.
The White House and Senate Republicans had proposed a $1 trillion plan in the summer, and in September they floated a “skinny” plan, worth $500 billion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently called $2.2 trillion an “outlandish” request. He also dismissed the idea of getting a deal through Congress before the November 3 election when talking to reporters after Pelosi and Mnuchin’s meeting on Wednesday, The Hill reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
The source who outlined Mnuchin’s proposal to Roll Call suggested that McConnell might consider the latest proposal viable, but a spokesman for McConnell denied this.
Democrats have not yet voted on their $2.2 trillion plan, delaying it until at least Thursday to see what the outcome of talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin are.
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