On the Streets of D.C., How the Biden Presidency Began

W.ashington, D.C.– On the last morning of the Trump presidency, the city was quiet.

At 8:30 a.m. amA crowd had gathered outside the Cathedral of the Apostle Matthew where Joe Biden was to go to mass. A flood of police vehicles blocked the entrance, hoping to see the soon-to-be president, but there was a sense of anticipation – a desire to be part of something on this momentous day. One woman wore a Biden Harris mask made entirely of sequins. Another woman’s mask read simply “The Future”. An elderly gentleman said quietly to himself, “It is really remarkable.”

On every other day of inauguration – especially one when a democratic government is welcomed – D.C. Residents poured out of their homes to take part in the festivities, like on the first day of spring at the end of a long winter. But this year a deadly Capitol riot and a runaway pandemic had combined to make a public celebration impossible. Under threats of further violence from the far right, the district and the President’s Inaugural Committee urged people to celebrate at home and virtually attend the swearing-in ceremony. So the capital was a ghost town; Aside from joggers, strollers, and the occasional Biden fanatic, Washington’s wide boulevards were empty.

What was in abundance were security guards: police, secret service, homeland security, TSA and more. A National Guard contingent of around 15,000 soldiers mobilized after the January 6 attack on the Capitol had grown to over 25,000 in recent days. Armed with M4s and pistols, guardsmen were everywhere in the city center. They stood in packs on barricades in the middle of the street and in front of an open Starbucks. Some soldiers stood next to homeless camps – a picture of America, really, at a time when millions have lost jobs and housing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Heavy fences and security checkpoints dominated the normally busy streets. In the end, there was no violence and the few Trump supporters I spotted were subdued. They wore MAGA gear and were still waving Trump 2020 flags. They looked lost.

At Black Lives Matter Plaza, facing the White House and an hour before Biden’s swearing-in, the crowd was small but lively. A speaker played Marvin Gaye, Simon & Garfunkel and Elvis Presley. A woman in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt flew a little kite with the words Mrs. vp. Her mask, black with pink letters, read the same. Through steel barricades, past a handful of soldiers and police officers, one could still see the hundreds of homemade signs on the fence that was erected around the White House during the historic protests against racial justice that summer. Bye Donone read. Earlier that morning when Marine One took off from the White House lawn with Trump – he was on his way to Andrews Air Force Base and then to Florida – the people in the square had been dancing.

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