The violent uprising at the United States Capitol is tightening security clearance at a housewarming ceremony for President-elect Joe Biden that has already been reshaped by a pandemic and the prospect that his predecessor may not be present.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office from the Western Front of the Capitol, one of the places where a violent mob overwhelmed the police and stormed the building. They also scaled and occupied the scaffolding and the stands for the ceremonies.
A picture of the opening booth on the Western Front of the US Capitol, hours before the siege on January 6, 2021 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]The inauguration plans have already been scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The brazen attack, however, raises new questions about readiness for the event that the new administration welcomes after a bitter election.
Those in charge of coordinating the inauguration insisted Thursday evening that events move forward.
“Yesterday was a sad and solemn day for our country,” said Republican Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. “However, the outrageous attack on the Capitol will not prevent us from reassuring Americans – and the world – that our democracy will endure.”
“The great American tradition of an opening ceremony has taken place in times of peace, times of turmoil, times of prosperity and times of need,” they continued. “We will swear by President-elect Biden.”
Klobuchar and Blunt, who also head the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, along with the heads of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee announced on Friday that they would hold hearings to investigate the “security flaws” at the Capitol.
After the chaos on Wednesday, security forces have already begun to take additional precautions.
Approximately 6,200 National Guard members from six states – Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland – will assist the Capitol Police and other Washington law enforcement agencies for the next 30 days. The inauguration day road closures can be changed.
High black metal fences that could not be climbed were also erected on the Capitol grounds. Similar structures were previously used in the White House and other cities where protracted demonstrations took place.
A District of Columbia National Guard unit provides security presence as a fence is erected around the U.S. Capitol on January 7, 2021 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]However, such obstacles would have increased in the coming days anyway, as the inauguration is a National Special Security Event (NSSE) that is monitored by the Intelligence Service and numerous other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, and is helping to fight terrorism with the event connected. This is the same level of security that is in the state during party conferences or when a dignitary is in the Capitol – but not during a normal congressional session as when rioters broke through the building.
“The safety of everyone involved in the 59th inauguration of the president is of the utmost importance,” the secret service said in a statement on Thursday. “For more than a year, US intelligence has worked tirelessly with our NSSE partners to anticipate and prepare all possible contingencies at all levels to ensure a safe inauguration day.”
According to a person familiar with security planning, authorities will have the same military and civilian footprint to handle a crowd of more than a million people for an event that is expected to be a fraction due to restrictions on how to fight the coronavirus.
Those who worked on previous initiations said that while this year’s events will be different, the tradition of transferring power from one administration to another will continue.
“Is it that effective? You don’t have a photo of a million people in a row, so you don’t have a picture that strong. But I think you will still feel that way, “said Bill Daley, former White House Secretary of Commerce and Chief of Staff who helped organize President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.” The aura of change is there be. “
The outgoing President Donald Trump didn’t make it that easy. He has falsely argued that the election was stolen, a claim denied by fellow Republicans in critical swing states and his recently deceased attorney general. His numerous legal challenges were flatly dismissed as unfounded, including by the conservative judges he appointed.
A Trump rally outside the White House on Wednesday helped anger the mob who later stormed the Capitol.
Trump announced on Friday that he would not attend Biden’s inauguration. The outgoing president skipped the swearing-in of the new president only three times in US history, and the last to do so was Andrew Johnson 152 years ago. Trump did not recognize the impending transfer of power until after the Capitol was stormed. Vice President Mike Pence plans to attend the ceremony.
Former President Jimmy Carter has announced that he will not be in attendance. The first inauguration the 96-year-old will miss since taking office in 1977. He has stayed home for the most part amid the pandemic. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will be in attendance.
The inauguration organizers had already urged supporters not to come to Washington in person because of the pandemic. Recently, observation stands for spectators in front of the White House were dismantled.
There will also be no traditional dedication dinner and the parade will be virtual, much like the Democratic Party did during its all-online convention in August.
The opening committee has announced that Biden will be given an official escort with representatives from all military branches for a block before coming from the Capitol to the White House.
The presidential motorcade typically rolls the more than 1.8 miles (2.9 km) journey, with the new president and first lady walking part of the way and thousands of cheering supporters lining the streets. While the final details are still being worked out, it is unclear this time around whether that will be the case.
Whatever happens, it will be a long way from Obama’s inauguration in 2009 when organizers opened the entire length of the National Mall – which extends to the Lincoln Memorial – to accommodate the crowds. But security was also a problem back then.
Vice President Joe Biden walks down Pennsylvania Avenue with his family and security agents during President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade on January 20, 2009 [File: Tim Shaffer/Reuters]The night before, President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff briefed Obama’s team on credible intelligence, pointing out that four Somali men were still at large who were believed to be about the Border between the US and Canada come, a terrorist attack could be planned at the inauguration ceremony.
In his book A Promised Land, Obama writes: “To be on the safe side, we went through various contingencies with Chertoff and his team.” Obama had an advisor “Draft evacuation instructions I would give to the crowd if an attack were to take place while I was on stage.” He later noticed that he kept these instructions in his breast pocket during his speech and that he was “relieved” that nothing had happened and that he did not need to use them.