Jamie Dupree: An inauguration unlike any other

Downtown Washington DC saw few crowds Wednesday because of security measures and COVID-19 cancellations of parades and parties.
Downtown Washington DC saw few crowds Wednesday because of security measures and COVID-19 cancellations of parades and parties.

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Credit: Jamie Dupree

Jamie Dupree, who has covered Washington D.C. for three decades, was in the nation’s capital today to provide on-the-ground reports for the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News.

It was an inauguration unlike any other.

As President Joseph Biden took the oath of office as the 46th president of the United States, the streets of the nation’s capital were quiet, with high fences and thousands of heavily armed soldiers walling off the National Mall, the Capitol grounds, and a big chunk of downtown.

The inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is largely closed off to the public due to security concerns after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and public health concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thank you for your service!” a woman yelled to a group of National Guardsmen stationed a few blocks east of the White House, drawing smiles and a thumbs up from the soldiers.

At Black Lives Matter Plaza just north of the White House — where violence erupted last summer after the police killing of George Floyd — a small group of Biden supporters gathered to listen to his speech in the cold.

“I will be a president for all Americans,” Biden’s voice intoned over the loudspeakers, drawing cheers from people wrapped in “Biden 2020″ flags.

A few blocks away, a lone man stood holding a “Trump 2020″ flag. He said nothing, and the few people walking by did not speak with him.

Near the Capitol, there were no signs of any protests and no impromptu debates in the streets.

And with no parade, there were very few families and kids.

Honest Abe’s Souvenirs — not far from the usual parade route — was doing very little business. The Biden-Harris hats, T-shirts, and buttons flapped in the breeze.

But in Lincoln’s Waffle Shop across the street, National Guard soldiers were stacked inside like pancakes, waiting for some warm food. With no protests, and no trouble in the streets, the mood was much like an early Sunday morning in Washington, D.C., with members of the news media often outnumbering the general public.

“Sorry, I’m a reporter,” one journalist said when asked by another to do an interview about the day. “I’m from Cleveland.”

It was the first time the public had not been allowed to gather on the National Mall or near the Capitol for an inauguration since 1985, when very cold weather moved Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural indoors.

While Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) attended the swearing-in at the Capitol, some in the Ohio delegation stayed home, like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who watched online because of coronavirus concerns.

“America’s the greatest country ever,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) tweeted after watching Biden’s swearing-in. “May God continue to bless us all.”

Because of concerns about COVID-19 and security, state lawmakers had almost no guest tickets to give out. There were no parties in Congressional offices for visitors from back home. And with no inaugural parade, there was no Ohio State Marching Band, no University of Dayton students and graduates, or others from the state marching to the White House as in past years.

Even before Biden had started his inaugural address, one National Guard soldier had wrapped up his duties.

“It’s been a lot of work,” he said with a smile, loading his bag into a car at a downtown hotel.

“Come back and see us,” the hotel security guard said with a smile.

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