Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. is considered "America's Main Street". Along this road are many historical sites and prominent buildings, namely the U.S. Capitol building, and most known being the 1600 address of The White House. Pennsylvania Avenue has been used as the main road for prominent funeral processions, including 7 of the 8 Presidents that have died while in office. This important roadway has also been and continues to be the number one spot for countless national protest marches since the beginning of our country's founding, on subjects ranging anywhere from civil rights, women's suffrage, anti-war, gun control, labor unions, veteran's rights, healthcare.. the list is endless, basically any and every subject where thousands feel their voice needs hearing eventually make an appearance on Penn Ave, where they make a plea and camp and march in front of one of the most visited areas of Penn Ave, in front of the gates of the White House lawn.
This says nothing to the hundreds of thousands of tourists that make their way across Penn Ave each and every year, to see the sites and to take a picture in front of our current President's home. Given the importance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one would imagine that security measures are quite beefed up to handle such numbers each and every day. Add to that our President's historically heavy and continued involvement in international affairs and conflicts, along with the exponential rise in technological weaponry, and its a wonder that the place where the POTUS calls home and sleeps at night is even visible and any kind of accessible at all.
The Secret Service actually has a special division specifically in charge of policing the White House, and the area directly around 1600 Penn Ave. They are called the Secret Service Uniformed Division, and comprise of about 1,400 highly trained officers. While some of these officers do also service the Capitol building and the Vice President's residence as well, a great majority are employed to detail just the White House. Along with the SSUD, you have the National Park Service and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police securing the area. This leads to quite a lot of security, and leaves you scratching your head when someone can simply hop
the White House fence, run across the football field sized White House lawn, and actually make it to the unlocked front door of the White House, and then go inside, armed with a knife!
But that's what happened recently. A 42-year-old man with extreme PTSD named Omar Gonzalez was able to accomplish this on some random weekday, apparently catching the security detail of the time completely off guard. What's more, a day prior, a man by the name of Kevin Carr was arrested for driving up to a security barrier and trying to walk to and enter the White House. These are just a few examples of the vulnerability of the White House perimeter, and are not the first incidents that have people considering if new protocols need to be enforced around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Back in 1995, the Oklahoma City Bombing incident spurred the current administration into closing off portions of Penn Ave in front of the White House to all vehicular traffic. People could still walk and ride bikes on that strip of America's Main Street, but no longer could cars and trucks travel down it. All vehicle traffic was rerouted around the building. And after 9/11, President Bush made that policy permanent.
Makes you wonder, to a strip of roadway with so much history and national significance, will we ever see a day when visitors won't be allowed to visit at all? Given the reactionary nature of our security officials, and no one wanting a repeat offense, I think it's a possible future, if things ever truly get out of hand. For now, the Secret Service is floating ideas of ramping up security measures after these two recent incidents by talking about instating random bag checks
to anyone in the perimeter, as well as profiling anyone that doesn't 'look like a tourist'. Oh, and by locking the front door at all times.
Given the constant potential for security breach, the growing animosity of terrorist cells like ISIS toward our nation's top leaders, and the recent White House intruders, all together this leaves little doubt that security detail will be amped up to an all-time high on the most popular stretch of America's Main Street for quite some time. And given the nature of how we never back down on security measures, but instead always ante up, whatever changes occur will be mainstays from now on.