This Wont Be a Normal Inauguration Day

Illustration for article titled This Wont Be a Normal Inauguration Day

Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 will be unlike any other in modern memory. After the assault on the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of the current president’s supporters, authorities across the country are wary of follow-up attacks not only in Washington D.C., but in all 50 state capitals. The threat of further violence threatens to mar the peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election handed Joe Biden a victory—results the president and a minority of Republican lawmakers have falsely contested for months.

With threats of armed violence looming over the proceedings, you can expect heightened security not only on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, but across the country as we attempt to keep the gears of democracy in motion.

Expect a militarized presence in Washington D.C.

In a security briefing with Vice President Mike Pence, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently warned of “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter…about a number of events surrounding the inauguration,” with the agency contacting all 50 state governments about the possibility of armed protests on January 20.

With law enforcement’s ill-prepared response to last Wednesday’s Capitol siege, federal authorities want to be more circumspect about next week’s event, as to prevent becoming overwhelmed by any potential disruption.

According to Politico, Biden was briefed on Wednesday about the potential for violence by the FBI, Secret Service, and other national security officials. NPR reports that 21,000 National Guard troops have been deployed to D.C. to safeguard the inauguration, while around 4,000 police officers have been mobilized from around the country to augment the D.C. Metropolitan Police Force’s presence. The Secret Service oversees security for the inauguration.

You can expect a heavily fortified capital, and a ceremony marked by much more vigilance and security than what is normally required. State houses across the country are also expected ramp up their security efforts.

Certain changes have already been implemented

Joe Biden originally planned to make a symbolic play for his love of American infrastructure in the run-up to the ceremony by taking an Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware to D.C. on Monday. That plan has been scrapped because of the security threats, in addition to a planned rehearsal for the inauguration, originally intended for this Sunday.

The rehearsal is now scheduled for Monday, with appropriate tweaks made for the necessary security. Though security officials and the presidential inauguration committee have declined to comment on the violent threats, Biden noted earlier this week that he’s “not afraid” to take the oath of office in the traditional format.

There might also be a trace of eeriness in the air on Inauguration Day, as the D.C. streets will likely be less full than they usually are during the event. The city has imposed travel restrictions, which involves shutting down 13 rail stations around the ceremony’s vicinity on Friday through Sunday.

As NPR explains:

Metro is closing 13 rail stations inside the security perimeter for the inauguration, with 11 stations closing on Friday and two additional stations closing on Saturday through next Thursday. Trains will bypass those closed stations without stopping.

Airlines are also complying with the government’s directives. According to the NPR report, Delta, American, Southwest, United, and Alaska airlines will not let passengers traveling to D.C. airports bring guns with their checked baggage during inauguration week.

The National Mall, which is typically flooded with revelers and supporters of the incoming president, will be closed for the inauguration, CNN reports. According to an official who spoke to CNN, the Mall will be pretty barren.

As the network reports:

There will be no big screens, no toilets, no panels were people stand, and that the public will not be able to get down to the mall where traditionally thousands gather to watch the new president be sworn in.

The Secret Service is expected to make an announcement about when the closure will commence.

Congress called on travel companies to mitigate threats

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to 27 major travel companies on Friday, asking them to “implement plans to disrupt potential insurrectionists ahead of the inauguration,” according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney. The companies included are rental car businesses, bus companies, and hotels, predominantly, and they’ve been asked for “assistance in identifying and preventing the ongoing and extreme threat of further violent attacks in Washington, D.C.,” per the letter.

Airbnb, for its part, has already cancelled all reservations in the nation’s capital for inauguration week.