Airbnb is blocking D.C. inauguration bookings amid threats of violence

By Connie Lin

January 13, 2021

Last week’s Capitol Hill siege by pro-Trump insurrectionists is looming large over next week’s inauguration ceremony, as both politicians and civilians are worried the event could bring more violence and mayhem to Washington amid visible storm clouds of political unrest.

In response, many D.C. residents, including city council members and grassroots groups, have called for local lodging to cancel reservations during the inauguration to block potential agitators from converging at the event. According to reports, of the thousands of insurgents who participated in last week’s siege, many flew in and stayed at neighborhood Airbnb rentals, despite the company’s attempt to vet bookings from members of hate groups.

But this time the company will cancel all D.C. area reservations during inauguration week, it announced Wednesday. The booking ban will also extend to HotelTonight, Airbnb’s app for last-minute lodging. According to the company, it will reimburse hosts for the money they would have earned from the cancelled stays.

The news comes after publications reported that armed right-wing groups have been protesting in the district and in state capitals across the country, and calls are surfacing on social media apps to demonstrate at the inauguration. Some reference a “Million Militia March,” and others reference delivering “justice” for a rioter and Air Force veteran who was killed by police during last week’s siege. Some use a new flag that has emerged online, which bears four stars for the four “patriots” who died during the siege.

In response, Washington officials are gearing up for lockdown next week as fences are being built across the city and 15,000 National Guard troops are set to deploy.

Airbnb’s new policy is an escalation of its earlier “Capitol Safety Plan” released Monday, when it said it would be reviewing reservations for associations with hate groups and domestic terrorism.

“As we’ve learned through media or law enforcement sources the names of individuals confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity at the United States Capitol on January 6, we’ve investigated whether the named individuals have an account on Airbnb. Through this work, we have identified numerous individuals who are either associated with known hate groups or otherwise involved in the criminal activity at the Capitol Building, and they have been banned from Airbnb’s platform,” the company said in a statement.

With its new policy, Airbnb is going a step further than some traditional hoteliers. According to a Marriott International spokesperson in an email to Fast Company, its D.C. area hotels will be open leading up to and throughout the inauguration.

“We plan on keeping our commitment to existing reservations. We of course have the safety of our guests and associates top of mind given the recent events. We are monitoring the situation very closely and have operational and security plans in place,” said the spokesperson.