The historic day of Joe Biden’s inauguration as president of the United States passed without notable incidents. The unusual deployment of security forces seen yesterday in the city of Washington dominated an urban landscape with streets empty of pedestrians but with thousands of uniformed officers. Sanitary limitations imposed by the pandemic also helped prevent pedestrian groups from which potential rioters could have mixed.
Official media reported that there were only a few isolated arrests. No wonder the ceremony unfolded with absolute tranquility, because solid barriers surrounded the Capitol, armored vehicles remained parked in the streets and thousands of soldiers and policemen stood guard in strategic places of the American capital.
After the riots and the assault on the Capitol on January 6 by a crowd of violent supporters of Donald Trump, the Secret Service, the aagency responsible for protecting the president, the vice president and foreign leaders visiting the United States, took steps to transform the city of Washington into a bastion under siege. This security body did not leave loose ends in a plan designed to prevent yesterday from repeating the embarrassing incidents at the headquarters of Congress that went around the world.
The security cordon set up around the perimeter of the Capitol and surrounding areas was simply impressive. More than 25,000 National Guard soldiers and thousands of police officers guarded all the space occupied by official buildings and their surroundings. The detachment of National Guardsmen was three times larger than the 8,000 at Donald Trump’s inauguration. An unknown number of tanks took up positions in the streets and the corners were occupied by concrete obstacles.
Neither were there any free spaces for pedestrian traffic. The National Mall, the great park of national monuments in the American capital, was closed tight. The road intersections were other of the points from where the military and police guarded the streets and nearby buildings, in which they posted numerous snipers. The caravan of cars in which Joe Biden was traveling alone paraded through deserted avenues guarded by the troops.
Those attending the event were asked to stay away due to the high incidence of the pandemic in the country and the fears of outbreaks of violence. Only a few people defied the warnings and walked the streets of Washington to see what they could on a strange historic day. The restrictions even reached parliamentarians. If 200,000 tickets were normally distributed to legislators for distribution to their constituents, this time there was only one pass available for each of the 535 members of Congress, along with one guest.
Red garbage trucks with the legend ‘God bless America’ on the sides acted as a barrier in one of the most sensitive points, the northern part of the White House, where Biden had to go after taking the oath.
Control of social networks
Hours before the inauguration, federal authorities monitored “disturbing” social media interactions, including threats against elected officials and ideas on how to infiltrate the event. Twelve members of the National Guard were excluded from the security operation due to their ties with far-right groups and two of them had posted messages on the internet with inflammatory rhetoric about the inauguration. The FBI reviewed the background of the 25,000 National Guardsmen sent to Washington yesterday. The same agency had warned the different police forces about the possibility of ultra-rightists posing as members of the National Guard to boycott the ceremony.