Braun to Inslee: Time to take the security fences down

OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, sent Gov. Jay Inslee the following letter regarding the continued use of security fencing around many of the buildings on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.


February 3, 2021

Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002

Dear Governor Inslee,

Although the Governor’s Mansion is used for public functions, it is also the private
residence for you and the First Lady. It was wrong for protestors to break through a
gate in the security fence surrounding the mansion, as they did on January 6. I have
consistently spoken against protests at the homes of public officials.

Public areas are the proper forum for dissent — not the places where public officials
and their families live. This is true whether you are the mayor of Seattle or the
governor of Washington.

On the Capitol campus, the space between the Legislative Building and the Temple of
Justice has been a traditional public forum. People have gathered there for almost 100
years to engage in constitutionally protected free speech.

After the January 6 incident, you made the decision to erect a tall metal fence – a wall,
in effect – around the Legislative Building. It was your judgment that in balancing the
constitutional right of free speech near the Legislative Building and potential threats to
the security of legislative- and executive-branch staff and officials, you would err on
the side of safety.

At the time, the Secretary of the Senate was gracious enough to contact the Senate
Republican Caucus and ask if we wanted the security fencing to surround the
Newhouse Building, where most of our members have their offices.

Before making our decision, we reached out to law-enforcement authorities. None
knew of specific threats directed at the Legislative Building and the Capitol campus as
a whole, so we chose to err on the side of the public’s right of free expression. We
thanked the Secretary for making the inquiry but declined the offer.

Governor, that was the first week of January. This is the first week of February.
Respectfully, it is time to take down the fences which are separating the public from
their elected officials in the Legislature. Nearly one month after being banned, the
people should at least be allowed to return to the traditional public forum on the steps
of the Legislative Building.

If there are specific and credible security threats which would counsel against taking
the barriers down, we would appreciate being briefed by specific law-enforcement
authorities. Otherwise, we serve the people and are accountable to them. During this
session, we are making decisions impacting the lives of every Washingtonian. To the
extent possible, we are still doing so on the inside of the Legislative Building. If you
won’t let the people inside the building to serve as witnesses to our actions, we at least
should be able to hear their voices from their traditional public forum on the steps of
the building. Restricting them to rain-soaked lawns far from the ears of legislators is
not an acceptable alternative.

Governor, please take down the fences which are needlessly keeping the people away
from the Legislative Building – the People’s House – and their legislators.
Thank you for your consideration.

Sen. John Braun
Republican Leader

cc: Senator Billig
Speaker Jinkins
Representative Wilcox