A White House Yoga Mat "Incident" Managed To Get The Whole Place Locked Down — UPDATE
The Washington Examiner reported Monday that the Secret Service responded to a "yoga mat incident" at the White House, which involved someone allegedly throwing a yoga mat over the highly guarded perimeter fence of the building. The Secret Service later said that the items thrown over the White House fence were a sign and a notebook, not a yoga mat.
Very little is known about the "incident" right now, but NBC News national correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted Monday around 10:30 a.m. Eastern time that camera crews were ordered off the North Lawn due to the potential threat. "Secret Service agent with TV pool says the White House lockdown was caused by someone who threw a sign and yoga mat over the fence," Alexander posted. Bustle has reached out to Alexander to determine how the item was mistaken for a yoga mat, and did not receive an immediate reply.
By 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Secret Service had tweeted the corrected update about the items that were thrown over the fence, though it remains unclear at this time whether the White House is still in lockdown mode. Donald Trump wasn't even in the building at the time of the incident, which very likely decreased the security protocol that the Secret Service had to implement within the compound. Trump was traveling back from the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial, which was posted on his public schedule for Monday.
There's no reason to think as of now that the "incident" on the North Lawn was terrorist related, so the timing is probably coincidental. The Secret Service tweeted that the notebook and sign had been "deemed nonhazardous," which means there were no traces of biological or chemical agents detected on the items. Since the incident occurred while Trump's wasn't supposed to be there, it doesn't appear to be premeditated either. Also, only one male suspect is now in D.C. Metro Police custody, according to the Secret Service, further indicating that there is no evidence of a larger organized plot.
White House lockdowns are relatively common due to the extreme levels of precaution taken to protect the building and its occupants. Lockdowns have made headlines several times already this year. In March, a suspicious package on the street by the South Lawn caused a lockdown, and someone hurled a television through a window from inside of the White House in June, which also caused Secret Service to crash the building.
Lockdowns aren't quite as dramatic as the movies may have made you think though. According to Ronald Kessler, an author and expert regarding presidential security, there's no fancy Defcon 5 system that lines the walls of the Oval Office with steel or anything like that.
"Evacuating the president is the whole idea," Kessler told Yahoo in an interview. "There is an underground bunker six stories below the White House that's under construction, though for now there are underground tunnels that lead out of the White House. The whole point is to get him out."
Part of the beauty of the White House is how accessible it is to the American public, and inevitably that means that people are going to do foolish things like throw signs over the fence. Unfortunately for them, it's a federal crime that can earn you several years in prison if a jury decides that the threat was credible enough. That seems highly unlikely in this case, since there's no indication that this was part of a legitimate, organized attempt to harm the president. Still, it's not a great idea to try throwing things at the White House (as tempting as it may be these days).