President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 at 12 p.m. ET – but given the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns following the violent storm on the U.S. Capitol Building, the ceremony will look very different from the previous ones.
Under normal circumstances, thousands of people gather on the National Mall while the president-elect takes the oath of office on the Western Front of the Capitol, followed by a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with thousands of service members representing each branch, and an opening ball at night.
But the Biden team cut the celebrations significantly this year due to the pandemic, on the advice of public health experts. The theme is "America United" – a key message from Biden's presidential campaign.
Biden had originally planned to start the schedule by train from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, DC. He made this journey for many years while serving in the Senate. However, these plans have been canceled due to escalating security concerns, CNN reported.
He will continue to take the oath of office in the Capitol accompanied by socially distant members of the military, but officials are actively preventing people from traveling to DC for the ceremony. Instead, they organized a virtual television event with community appearances similar to the one presented at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
The violent uprising at the Capitol earlier this month, which resulted in five deaths and the opening of at least 25 domestic terrorism cases, dwarfed inauguration plans. Fears remain that more mobs of Trump supporters could hit DC or the state capital buildings in the coming days, especially given that President Donald Trump is still refusing to allow the election.
Discussion of future armed protests has spread on Twitter, the company said when it announced Trump's permanent ban from the platform. Colorado Democratic MP Jason Crow said in a recent statement that the Department of Defense had identified "other potential threats posed by potential terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day."
Law enforcement agencies are therefore making efforts to step up security, including building new barriers in the Capitol and conducting an internal threat assessment of the 25,000 National Guard troops stationed in DC for fear that there might be extremists in their ranks.
Trump will not attend the inauguration
Amid bipartisan calls for his impeachment, Trump announced earlier this month that he would not attend the inauguration. He was the first president in 152 years to refuse to attend the swearing-in ceremony for his successor.
Everyone who asked, I will not go to the inauguration on January 20th.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2021
Typically an outgoing president invites the president-elect to the White House before the housewarming ceremony, but that won't happen either.
Trump will instead hold a departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews on the morning of inauguration day and leave for a final trip on Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, NPR reported. He reportedly considered announcing a 2024 presidential bid on inauguration day or holding a rally upon his arrival in Florida, although no longer expected.
Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump has publicly criticized for refusing to undermine the electoral college vote count, is reportedly planning to attend the event. He and his wife Karen Pence could see Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff at the Vice President's residence before the dedication ceremony, but security concerns may prevent them from doing so, according to the New York Times.
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will also accompany Biden and Harris to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery shortly after the oath of office of Biden and Harris.
96-year-old Jimmy Carter, who is at home for the pandemic, has announced that he will not be attending. This is the first time he has missed the inauguration since his own in 1977.
Safety concerns have dwarfed the inauguration plans
Biden had questions about whether to reduce the dedication plans any further because of Security concerns. After the Capitol Uprising, Trump supporters may return to DC on Inauguration Day (although Trump did not receive a verbatim invitation, these efforts may not be quite as organized as they were on Jan. 6).
But Biden has claimed the show must go on.
"I'm not worried about my safety or the initiation," he told reporters on Jan. 6. "I'm not worried." The American people will stand up, stand up now. Enough is enough is enough. "
Local and federal officials have revised their post-Capitol inauguration plans.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser extended a citywide emergency statement to the day after inauguration, saying that "the motivation (of those who stormed the Capitol) continues." The statement allows local officials to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for financial assistance to help protect people and property in DC. It also extended the pandemic-related restrictions on indoor eating until Jan. 22 to control the crowd.
Bowser has asked the Department of Homeland Security to take additional security measures prior to the inauguration, including revoking permission to attend the public gathering on January 11-24, "in the face of the new threat of insurgent acts by domestic terrorists." Several groups applied for such permits to protest Biden's inauguration and identify themselves as pro-Trump.
It is not clear whether these permits will be revoked. However, the DHS has extended the deadline for "National Security Special Events," a designation that makes it easier for federal law enforcement agencies to work together to respond to terrorist or other criminal threats.
The National Guard presence across DC is expected to rise to approximately 25,000 to help intelligence and other law enforcement agencies respond to potential Inauguration Day threats. Less than half that number has usually been present at initiations in recent history.
Some troops slept in the halls of the Capitol Building, which is now protected by climbing fences and a heavily guarded perimeter that now extends around the White House and other federal buildings. They have been pouring into DC for weeks, closing roads and bringing in armored vehicles.
Despite the heightened threat environment, the organizers of the Joint Committee of Congress are coordinating opening ceremonies with security partners to ensure they can continue with planned celebrations.
"The outrageous attack on the Capitol … will not stop us from reassuring Americans – and the world – that our democracy is here to stay," said Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN ), who will take the lead committee, said in a statement. "Our committee's bipartisan, bicameral membership continues to seek to work with our many partners to conduct ceremonies that are safe and demonstrate our determined democracy."
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