WASHINGTON — The nation is on high alert for possible armed protests when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. However, Biden still plans to be sworn in, as past presidents have been, on the steps of the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, which was the site of violent riots staged by supporters of outgoing President Trump on Jan. 6.
A senior official on Biden’s Presidential Inaugural Committee told Yahoo News they are confident that the event will be secure and that it will “will mark a new day for the American people focused on healing our nation, bringing our country together and building back better.”
“The PIC remains in close contact with its security partners and the [Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies] as inaugural planning continues. We are confident in our security partners who have spent months planning and preparing for the inauguration, and we are continuing to work with them to ensure the utmost safety and security of the President-elect, Vice President-elect, participants and the public during this historic event,” the official said.
“We are looking forward to the inaugural ceremonies, in which the American people and the world will witness a peaceful transition of power.”
The Jan. 6 riots took place as lawmakers were inside the Capitol certifying Biden’s victory in last year’s election. Trump, who has falsely claimed Biden’s election victory was fraudulent, had encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” at a rally earlier in the day. Many of the Trump supporters who subsequently breached the Capitol said they hoped to overturn the election.
Five deaths have been linked to the ensuing violence, including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was reportedly attacked with a fire extinguisher, and Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter who was shot by law enforcement. Multiple explosives were also found around Washington, D.C., amid the violence. The violence has led to increased security all over the city and at the Capitol.
On Jan. 7, the day following the attempted insurrection, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which has planned and hosted inaugurations since 1901, issued a statement indicating the violence would not stop Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris from partaking in the traditional swearing in on the steps.
“Yesterday was a sad and solemn day for our country. The outrageous attack on the Capitol, however, will not stop us from affirming to Americans — and the world — that our democracy endures. Our committee’s bipartisan, bicameral membership remains committed to working with our many partners to execute ceremonies that are safe and showcase our determined democracy,” the statement said, adding, “The great American tradition of an inaugural ceremony has occurred in times of peace, in times of turmoil, in times of prosperity, and in times of adversity. We will be swearing in President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021.”
Presidential inaugurations are designated as National Special Security Events, which means the U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency responsible for protecting the proceedings. The Secret Service issued a statement on Jan. 7 that described the inauguration as a “foundational element of our democracy” and said securing the event was of the “utmost importance.”
“For well over a year, the U.S. Secret Service, along with our NSSE partners, has been working tirelessly to anticipate and prepare for all possible contingencies at every level to ensure a safe and secure Inauguration Day,” the statement said.
Even before last week’s violence at the Capitol, the inauguration faced security challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s inaugural committee has encouraged Americans to refrain from attending the event and to watch from home. The committee has also indicated there will be virtual events as part of the ceremonies.
According to a Department of Homeland Security document that was circulated among law enforcement agencies following the Capitol riot, the Secret Service is being supported by “multiple DHS components along with other law enforcement agencies.” The document stated that Biden will come to Washington via train from his home state of Delaware.
There will be a morning church service prior to the swearing in at noon. While the traditional inaugural parade has been canceled, the document said “there will be a ‘virtual parade’ that will be televised.”
“The largest event will be the public oath-taking, which is planned to have a limited footprint and health and safety protocols,” the document said.
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