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Biden/Harris: A peaceful transfer of power in most secure Inauguration in U.S. history

By January 22, 2021 No Comments

Pittsburgh Current Photo: Dave Decker

Dannys Marrero
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
info@pittsburghcurrent.com

On January 20, Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Normally a spectacle, this wasn’t a traditional inauguration. In fact, It looked and felt like no other in this country’s  modern history.  

But it comes after the presidency of Donald Trump, another period unlike any other in modern history. The nation has spent the past four years drowning in a river of turmoil, misinformation and intentional polarization Trump peddled conspiracy theories, made inflammatory statements against his political adversaries and the media, pushed racist rhetoric and refused to denounce white nationalists. Trump created an army of supporters who would do whatever he told them to do. That blind commitment to Trump is what led to the Jan. 6 insurgency at the U.S. Capitol.

Those who traveled to Washington, D.C.  on inauguration day, found a city with major road closures, armed soldiers, and miles of barriers blocking access to the U.S. Capitol. Following the Jan. 6 raid on the halls of congress, 25,000 National Guard troops were activated and deployed to the Capitol to provide increased protection on and around Federal grounds. Their presence was certainly felt. Around the Capitol were many signs asking for help in identifying the domestic terrorists who took part in the Capitol Insurrection.

Despite the inability to get near the actual inauguration, some Americans still felt compelled make the journey to D.C. 

“I understand why this is all happening,” said Ciara Huffton, a West Virginia resident who traveled to D.C. for the inauguration of the abundance of security, “But I also do think it is a bit of an overkill because those who did come to the inauguration can’t see or go anywhere important.” 

Pittsburgh Current Photo: Dave Decker

If you did manage to make your way through the secure “Green Zone” you were met by more National Guard soldiers in what was designated as the even more restricted “Red Zone.” In this area, various checkpoints were set-up to prevent the entry or movement of any unauthorized vehicles. Vehicles going in and out of the zone were swept for weapons. In the Red Zone, TSA officers checked bags and also conducted random searches on anyone in the area at any time. 

The Black Lives Matter Plaza was the deepest point within the “Red Zone,” that was still  accessible to the public. Usually this street is packed and has a perfect view of the White House. However, the once magnificent view of the presidential home had been reduced to boarded windows, and barriers with Capitol Police in between each wall. The night before the event, even more security fencing was erected in preparation for anticipated  civil unrest on Inauguration Day.

“It’s for the safety of everyone,” one of the fence installers quickly said. 

As the sun set on the Trump Presidency, Black Lives Matter Plaza played upbeat music and the few people who were theredanced late into the night,  holding signs showing their disapproval toward Trump and the recent events at the Capitol.

***

Early on Inauguration Day, members of the media began assembling, checking their gear. There were only a few hours left in the Trump Presidency but his frequent verbal attacks on the press over the past four years have changed the way many of us prepare for events. Right alongside video cameras, still cameras, voice recorders and notebooks were gas masks, helmets and bullet-proof vests. Trump has called the media an enemy of the people and many of his supporters believed him. During the Capitol riots, someone carved the ominous message “Murder the Media” in one of the doors.

***

At 8:45 a.m. Joe Biden kicked off his inauguration day at a special service at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle. Biden was soon to become just the second Catholic elected President (John F. Kennedy was the first).Before his arrival, a crowd optimistically waited in hopes of seeing their soon-to-be president. Many in the crowd were wearing some combination of Biden/Harris merchandise.

As Biden arrived at the Cathedral, the police presence quickly became even more notable with a convoy of SUVs and motorcycles blocking Biden as he walked into the church. Even though his supporters couldn’t see him, they kept cheering and waving  signs.

“[Donald Trump] has really affected our hometown for the pat four years in a negative way, so we are looking to get our hometown back.” said Courtney Stockland as she and her husband proudly held a sign that read,  “Veterans Welcome Back Joey B & Dr.Jill”.

At 10:30 a.m., Joe and Jill Biden left the Cathedral En route to the Capitol building for his swearing-in.At 10:44 a.m. a Bomb threat was issued at the Supreme Court, but it was quickly cleared by Capitol police and supporting forces.

Among those forces were members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. These soldiers were at the forefront of Security in the Green Zone and into the Red Zone guarding the Capitol and other important landmarks.

However, inside the perimeter, there were several protest groups. One group in particular was supporting a “Jesus or Hellfire” message against Biden and Harris. Tensions grew quickly as the religious protesters threw insults at bystanders and the then at Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris.

“Your Vice President is a whore” said one of the protest leaders after making other accusations about the now-Vice President Harris.

At 11:33 a.m. tensions burned hotter and turned physical between both sides of protesters. Twenty Capitol Police officers arrived in riot gear to separate the two groups.

“They’re just spilling out nonsense trying to convince everyone that if you’re gay or if you commit these sins they’re talking about you’re going to hell which as a Christian is just incorrect,” said Ethan Graham, one of the most vocal counter protesters.

At 12:01 p.m., hundreds of people and the majority  of media outlets from all over the world gathered around the perimeter of the Capitol to watch Joe Biden and Kamala  Harris take their oaths. Many Visitors carried American Flags and other patriotic attire, and the looming fear of a violent inauguration disappeared.

“I like documenting moments in history” said Ciara Turner, a resident of D.C., who carried a blank canvas and would ask other members of the crowd to write what this inauguration meant to them.

As Joe Biden delivered his first remarks to the country as President, many watched together in huddles through their phones. All of whom wore masks. For those few minutes, President Joe Biden addressed what, in that moment, felt like a unified nation. No one asked anyone where they were from, what religion or ethnicity they were, or what political party they backed. For the first time in four years everyone came together as an American, at least for a little while..

The fact alone that journalists  had to prepare for the worst speaks volumes. Why did reporters and spectators  going to D.C. have to fear for their safety? Why did many citizens not feel safe to go out and welcome a new administration? Even if we may think we know the answers to these questions, we now look forward to a new horizon and a new day. With this new Day a new opportunity to be a better person and make a better country.

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