Tall fences topped with thick, spiralling razor wire encased the US Capitol area on Friday, as thousands of heavily armed National Guardsmen stood watch. Bridges leading into the city will be closed beginning this weekend. Access to the grounds will be highly restricted.
In many ways, the lead-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden more resembles the visit of a head of state to a military encampment in a warzone than it does the swearing-in of the president of the United States at the building housing the nation’s legislature.
The swearing-in of the 46th president will differ in three key and unprecedented ways, according to experts: First, the city is locked down in anticipation of more violence after the attack on the Capitol building last week by armed supporters of President Donald Trump.
Second, Trump has refused to attend the ceremony, still smarting from his loss and insisting the election was stolen.
Third, the inauguration festivities will be broadly downsized to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as the country still struggles to contain the deadly pandemic.
The US capital city is already highly fortified several days out from the main event.
Throngs of National Guardsmen have been sleeping on the floor of the Capitol building as their compatriots guard fenced roadblocks around the premises alongside large beige military trucks.
Officials have announced that as many as 25,000 of these troops will be available to secure the event, not to mention stepped up forces from the FBI, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department and US Capitol Police.
Essentially all vehicular traffic into and out of downtown Washington, DC, and around the National Mall and the monuments will be shut down through Thursday, including several main bridges.
In-person attendance will also be sharply restricted.
Only 100 people in at a time can amass, a far cry from the record estimated nearly two million people cheering on Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 or roughly half a million strong pink-hat clad Women’s March protesters who took to the streets the day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017.