In a city of heightened readiness and amid a still-raging pandemic, Joe Biden was sworn in on Wednesday, becoming the 46th president of the United States, declaring him a victory for the “cause of democracy.” Watch the ceremonies live.
It was a discovery like no other.
In a city of heightened readiness and amid a still-raging pandemic, Joe Biden was sworn in on Wednesday, becoming the 46th president of the United States, declaring him a victory for the “cause of democracy.”
“This is America’s day. This is Democracy Day, “Biden said in his inaugural address after being sworn in by Supreme Court President John Roberts. “Today we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause. The cause of democracy. “
The swearing-in took place in the same footsteps of the Capitol, taken by a crowd of Trump supporters just two weeks ago, in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from officially counting the electoral votes that confirmed Biden’s victory in the presidential race last fall.
The traditional celebrations were held under strict security measures with a significantly reduced guest list due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic brought about some other changes, including a virtual “parade across America,” which included a presidential motorcade traveling through DC on its way to the White House, and performances from across the county.
As the motorcade approached the White House at the beginning of the parade, the new president, first lady and other family members left the procession and set off to remind the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue, where small crowds and members of the media had gathered.
At one point, Biden shouted, “Mrs. Mayor!” And turned to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was on the sidelines, to greet her.
Welcome to DC, President @ JoeBiden! #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/C6ntJrowE5
– Muriel Bowser (@MurielBowser) January 20, 2021
Shortly afterwards, Biden entered the White House for the first time since taking the oath.
In his opening remarks, which lasted about 20 minutes, Biden acknowledged the difficult challenges he will face as president.
Citing the coronavirus pandemic, which officially claimed 400,000 American lives the day before Biden was sworn in, the new president spoke of “winter danger and significant opportunities.”
Under a sunny sky and at times of gusty breeze, Biden paused for a moment of silence to remember the life lost by COVID-19.
“We are entering perhaps the most difficult and deadly period of the virus,” Biden said, but referring to a worn-out Bible verse, he said, “Crying can last all night, but joy comes in the morning. We will pass together – together! ”
Read and view Biden’s full inaugural address
Recognizing the deep divisions in the county, Biden called for unity and pledged to be president of all Americans.
Referring to Abraham Lincoln when he issued the Proclamation of Liberation in 1863, Biden said, “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: the unification of America, the unification of our people, the unification of our nation.”
Before being sworn in by Biden, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latin woman to serve in the Supreme Court, took the oath of office with Vice President Kamala Harris shortly after 11:40 a.m. Harris took office as the first woman, the first black woman and the first man. of Asian descent who serves as vice president.
Taking office, a time-honored tradition of the American political system, came amid unprecedented security following the deadly siege of the Capitol. Thousands of National Guard troops from across the country were on patrol, the National Mall was fenced in for visitors, parties were asked to stay home, and much of downtown DC was essentially locked.
Even before the storming of the Capitol two weeks ago, the inauguration was formed to be different due to the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing guidelines place the kibosh on large crowds, and plans for a virtual parade replace the traditional trip down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Outgoing President Donald Trump did not attend the ceremonies, becoming the first president to fail to swear an oath to his successor since Andrew Johnson skipped the inauguration of Ulysses C. Grant in 1869.
Although the National Mall was empty to visitors and instead full of flags fluttering in the wind, the ceremony did provide the traditional splendor and circumstances associated with past inaugurations.
With the exception of Trump and 96-year-old Jimmy Carter and 93-year-old Rosalyn Carter, all former living presidents and first ladies were present. Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence attended the opening.
In a nod to the Capitol violence two weeks ago, Eugene Goodman, a Capitol police officer who defended the Capitol from a mob of rebels by taking them out of the Senate Chamber, was named acting deputy sergeant for the case and accompanied Harrison II. Douglas Emhoff to their seats at the introductory booth.
Schedule of events: What to expect and when
After the official opening in the Capitol, there are several other events scheduled for the Opening Day.
14 hours After the opening, there was a bipartisan wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff will visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will be accompanied by former presidents and first ladies, Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
15 hours After visiting Arlington National Cemetery, Biden received a brief presidential escort from 15th Street to the White House. All branches of the U.S. Army are involved, including the U.S. Army Band, the Joint Service Honor Guard, and the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard and Fife and the Drum Corps of the 3rd US Infantry.
15:15 This was followed by a virtual “Parade of America” featuring performances from across the county. The streaming event includes John Stewart, Earth, Wind & Fire, New Radicals, as well as – closer to home – the drum line of Howard University and The Washington Chorus.
8:30 p.m. Speeches by Biden and Harris, as well as special musical performances, will take part in the special primetime “Celebrating America”. The special host is Tom Hanks, along with Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria, leading segments throughout the show. Musical guests include John Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Timberlake. Hamilton creator Lynn-Manuel Miranda will also recite a classic.
Views and sounds: Tight guards, small crowds
WTOP reporters were outside and around the Capitol and DC, reporting quiet streets and tight security.
In general, DC residents seem to have heeded calls from local leaders to stay home this year and watch the inaugural ceremonies from home.
“I really want to emphasize how deserted the feeling is compared to what this same area felt four years ago,” said Alejandro Alvarez of WTOP. “It’s really striking, the lack of crowds in the center. … If you didn’t know what was going on, you wouldn’t know that an inauguration was coming. “
Biden flags were hoisted at Black Lives Matter Plaza, one of the few downtown areas that remained open to the public amid a maze of security barricades.
The supporters gathered there listened intently to Biden’s introductory address. His remarks against the white supremacy and exposing the Capitol riots drew applause, Alvarez said.
Joe Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th president of the United States as a small group of people gathered north of the White House erupted in cheers and gathered around the speaker to hear his speech. pic.twitter.com/nyh6mEkhvg
– Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) January 20, 2021
Read more about the scene from the streets of DC on Opening Day
In downtown DC, earlier Wednesday, WTOP’s Neil Augenstein said there were more reporters in the F and 14th Streets area than members of the general public on Wednesday morning. He said there were no crowds at the public checkpoints he passed on Wednesday morning.
John Aaron of WTOP, who watched the ceremonies from the lawn on the Western Front of the Capitol, said the crowd of invited guests there was quite small and socially distant.
Access to the Capitol was provided through round-the-clock checkpoints, Aaron said Wednesday morning. “It’s a little scary.”
The Capitol National Guard was armed and wearing riot shields.
There were intensive military vehicle checkpoints near Union Station, Aaron said, and that concrete barriers as well as tourist buses were used to block Capitol entrances.
After the deadly riot, the guard posture was significantly increased. In all, about 25,000 National Guard troops were stationed around the city.
WTOP National Security Correspondent JJ Green says thousands of National Guard troops in the area have been prepared for the worst and that the feeling is “intense”.
“No American official will say that, but each of the officers has weapons nearby and air, land and water assets are fully engaged,” Green said. “They are all looking for anything that doesn’t look or feel good so they can neutralize it immediately.”
He said there had been threats from extremist groups in the past few days.
“There was nothing that the authorities were not aware of and could not handle,” Green said.
As for the cases where the DC area can see some normalcy after the election, Green said it will take some time.
He said thousands of guards had been sent to the Capitol to be there for 30 days.
“I think it will be a gradual departure from that kind of security,” he said. “Some of the fences may fall, but there will be some security for the Capitol for a while.”
Getting around: Widespread street, closing bridges
Officials asked people to stay home and watch the ceremonies from home.
There are many closed roads in much of downtown DC, which will make it extremely difficult to travel through parts of DC if you have to move.
Road closures are centered around downtown DC from areas around the White House, the National Mall, stretching east to the Capitol.
Below is a map:
Authorities are also taking the extraordinary step of closing several bridges over the Potomac River in Virginia, DC.
The closed bridges are:
- Arlington Memorial Bridge (closed in both directions)
- Interstate 66 / Theodore Roosevelt Bridge
- Interstate Bridge 395 / 14th Street
The bridges over the Anacostia River are open to local vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, but closed to commercial vehicles.
Bridges and most closed roads will remain in place until 6 a.m. Thursday.
There are also interruptions to the Metro service, including more than a dozen stations that are closed.
On the opening day, the Pentagon station is closed, which means that the blue and yellow lines will pass through the station without stopping.
In addition, 13 other stations in the security perimeter have been closed since the weekend.
- Farragut North
- Court Square
- Union station
- Arlington Cemetery
- Farragut West
- McPherson Square
- Federal Center SW
- Capitol South
- The Smithsonian
- Federal triangle
- Metro center
- Gallery Place
WTOP’s John Aaron, Alejandro Alvarez, Valerie Bonk, Neal Augenstein, Ken Duffy, Luke Lukert and contributed to this report.