WASHINGTON – While Washington’s biggest winter storm has accumulated inches of snow in two years, there’s one place that doesn’t have snowball fights.
The Capitol grounds, one of the best places in town for tobogganing, is now closed, another repercussion of the January 6th rampage.
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate, has urged Capitol Police to allow the tradition to continue this week. The activity could be done safely, Ms. Norton said in a statement Saturday, “by only allowing children and adults with children to enter the area.”
A Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki referred to the city’s current security concerns and coronavirus restrictions and said this could not be allowed. “However, we look forward to welcoming the tobogganists back in the future,” she said in a statement.
While a rule against tobogganing on the Capitol grounds has existed for decades, it was only enforced after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Ms. Norton has advocated sledding on the property for years and has routinely added a provision on the annual federal spending bill to “ban” enforcement of the prohibition listed on page 175 of the Capitol Police Regulations. For the first time, she managed to include the pro-toboggan provision in 2016 in the collective expense calculation. (“Here we go!” she told the residents of the city after the ban was lifted that year.)
Last year, the Washingtoners organized a “snow-in” in the complex to protest against the rule.
The ban was revived in another moment of heightened tension. Instead of children making snowmen and snow angels, visitors to the Capitol complex these days are greeted by seven-foot-high, non-scalable fences erected after the uprising.
Chief Pittman, who took over the department when her predecessor stepped down days after the uprising, said experts had been advocating greater security measures for the Capitol prior to the 9/11 attacks and that a security assessment in 2006 recommended a permanent fence.
But in a difficult year, Ms. Norton said, the tobogganing tradition was a joy that should not be erased.
“Children across America have had an extremely challenging year,” she said, “and DC children in particular have seen not only the coronavirus pandemic, but the militarization of their city with the hostile symbols of fences and barbed wire.” Tobogganing is an easy thrill for children. It is the least we can allow our resilient children to do this winter season. “