United States Army National Guard and Secret Service police remained on duty in Washington D.C, on Tuesday night ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president.
Much of downtown D.C. remains a ghost town with dozens of roads blocked off with security checkpoints and armed police and troops on standby.
Presidential inaugurations are always tightly secure events with operations led by the US Secret Service, but this year’s measures have been amped up after outgoing President Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 in a bid to prevent the final certification of Biden’s victory.
Law enforcement officials have warned of threats and armed groups in all 50 states.
US officials said last week they expected the number of National Guard troops to rise to 25,000 in Washington D.C., a number that could still increase even further.
Starting from Tuesday, fences have been erected along the roads around the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue, with National Guard soldiers on duty at every crossing.
The area for the inauguration has been fully closed, with the security system on full alert.
The crossings around the area have been secured with checkpoints and dozens of National Guard soldiers.
On the day, vehicle traffic was prohibited or limited with only few reporters on the street in the area.
In the video below, SABC news correspondent Nick Harper speaks about the mood in Washington ahead of Biden’s inauguration:
The COVID-19 pandemic had already cancelled the inaugural balls. Now the National Mall is closed to the public due to threats of violence from groups who attacked the US Capitol on January 6.
Buildings at Capitol Hill were breached during a tense situation with pro-Trump demonstrators who were trying to stop Biden’s certification:
Almost none of the public will witness first-hand the transition of power, souring the mood of Washingtonians.
“It’s like a ghost town but with soldiers,” said Dana O’Connor, who walked with her husband past concrete barriers near the White House on Sunday. “It’s eerie. It feels super unnatural.”
Previous inaugurations sometimes drew over a million spectators to the National Mall, to watch the ceremony from giant television screens and the new president parading on foot from the Capitol to the White House. Balls and parties in hotel ballrooms and convention halls across the city feted guests with champagne and music from A-list stars.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Sunday that law enforcement officials had no choice but to ramp up security after the deadly Capitol attack, where “so-called patriots would attempt to overthrow their government and kill police officers.”
“We don’t want to see fences. We definitely don’t want to see armed troops on our streets. But we do have to take a different posture,” Bowser said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The city will see little of the $107 million increase in tax revenue that an inauguration week normally brings, the Downtown DC Business Improvement District estimates.
Sworn in in a green zone
For a nation that has prided itself as a beacon for democracy around the world, the peaceful transition of power looks anything but, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“The world will see Biden sworn in, in the middle of a military camp that’s indistinguishable from the Green Zone,” Sabato said, referring to the fortress-like area of central Baghdad set up after the Iraq War.
Sabato has attended every inauguration since Richard Nixon’s second one in 1973, and Ronald Reagan’s 1985 swearing-in that was held indoors because of the bitter cold. But he won’t attend this one.
The Secret Service has incorporated the term “Green Zone” into its inauguration security maps, and District of Columbia residents have started using the moniker for the vast restricted area running from two blocks east of the Capitol to the Potomac River west of the Lincoln Memorial.
The district, one of the most Democratic jurisdictions in the United States, voted 92% for Biden, making the current situation even more painful for many residents.
Amy Littleton, a 30-year-old political consultant who lives about 10 blocks north of the White House, said “it just feels really unfair” to be excluded from Biden’s inauguration.
Biden’s victory speech after winning elections on November 8,2020: