As Washington is on the alert for potential right-wing violence and domestic terrorism, a cache of what turned out to be replica firearms sparked a massive backlash near the National Mall on Saturday.
Two people were arrested when authorities said they found a number of firearms and rifles in a U-Haul truck parked near the city’s tidal pool, a short walk from the White House and the US Capitol. United States, US Parks Police said.
But the realistic-looking firearms were rifles and airsoft guns, which fire non-lethal plastic pellets at low speeds and are often used for games, tactical training, and target training. They are generally legal and are not regulated like firearms.
The detainees cooperated with the officers and were released, the park police sergeant said. Roselyn Norment.
The Tidal Basin, next to the Potomac River, is surrounded by the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. During the investigation, police closed Maine Avenue between the National Mall and the Wharf, NBC Washington reported.
Medical first responders have been deployed to the scene as a precaution, the station said.
The area in and around the National Mall has been on high alert since the January 6 riot at the Capitol. In August, a man identified as Floyd Ray Roseberry, 49, parked his van partially on the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress and stalled for hours as he allegedly claimed to have a bomb, although he did not.
Roseberry, who harbored complaints against the federal government, was later charged with threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and threatening to use an explosive device. A judge ordered him to undergo a medical evaluation.
Ten days after the Jan. 6 incursion, a Virginia man was arrested at a Washington checkpoint near the Capitol with an “unauthorized” inauguration pass, a firearm and more than 500 rounds, the authorities announced.
But the suspect, identified as Wesley Allen Beeler, 31, told the Washington Post it was “an honest mistake” because he was cleared to transport to neighboring Virginia. He said he worked as a nearby security guard in downtown Washington that he was late and forgot his gun was in his vehicle.
He denied having that much ammunition.
“I’m not a bad person,” he said at the time. “I am not connected to any hate groups.”
The pressure on the authorities who control the most powerful institutions in the country is not easing. A rally on Capitol Hill in support of those arrested in connection with the January 6 riot is scheduled for September 18.
Michelle Acevedo and Jay Varela contributed.
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