WASHINGTON – All planned votes at the US House of Representatives were canceled for the remainder of the week and Capitol Police went on high-alert Thursday over security concerns tied to a conspiracy theory over a specific date – March 4. In fact, Capitol Police requested the National Guard stay in Washington DC for another two months to continue providing additional protection for lawmakers.
“We have obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an identified militia group on Thursday, March 4,” the Capitol Police Department wrote in a statement. “We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public, and our police officers.”
Authorities did not offer any additional specifics regarding the identity of the militia group or the exact nature of the threat.
The National Guard has been in Washington DC since the Jan. 6 Capitol riots that left 5 people dead injured more than 150 people and threatened the lives of lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But why March 4? What makes a date on a calendar so important?
You have to look to the parts of the internet where conspiracy theorists roam. No longer is wild speculation confined to the dark corners of the web. Ideas and beliefs of all kinds can flourish—mostly unchecked—on social media and the World Wide Web.
QAnon supporters have promulgated the notion that former President Donald Trump would return to power on March 4 as some sort of real Inauguration Day, thus usurping President Joe Biden and the current administration.
March 4 does have historical importance in the federal government. After President George Washington’s first inauguration on April 30, 1789, all subsequent inaugurations would be held on March 4. From 1793 until 1933, Inauguration Day was held on March 4 – with only four exceptions (1821, 1849, 1877, and 1917; when March 4 fell on a Sunday).
The 20th Amendment changed the date of the presidential inauguration from March 4 to our current day standard of Jan. 20, with the goal of shortening the lame-duck status of an outgoing administration and members of Congress. The amendment was ratified in 1933 and the first Jan. 20 inauguration took place in 1937.
But the March 4 conspiracy theory isn’t really tied to the 20th Amendment. Instead, it draws from the sovereign citizen movement.
In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified and, the theory goes, turned sovereign citizens into federal citizens of the republic. This has spun off into beliefs that the federal income tax is illegal and even our own currency is illegitimate.
One such theory of the sovereign citizens movement is that the United States of America ceased to be an actual nation and became a corporation in 1871.
President Ulysses S. Grant signed the District of Columbia Organic Act into law in 1871, which incorporated Georgetown, the City of Washington, and Washington County, into a single municipal government.
The thought is conspiracy theorists and others have misinterpreted some phrasing and so by “incorporating” the District of Columbia, the entire nation was somehow converted into a corporate enterprise. As such, President Grant was the country’s last legitimate chief executive. The theory goes that former President Trump would retake office on March 4 and dissolve America as a corporate entity, and become the country’s actual 19th president.