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Safety And Security Paramount For Biden Inaugural Events

Jeffrey Delannoy/Smoky Mountain News
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser holds a press conference on Jan. 19.

President Trump is now “former President Trump.” But security concerns lingered during the inauguration of his successor, Joe Biden, after Trump helped incite a violent insurrection earlier this month.  In Washington, locals, tourists and, yes, reporters, dealt with the fallout of the insurrection on inauguration day. 

The violence surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection in the nation’s capital left an indelible impression on the nation and the world.  But during the inauguration of Joe Biden, safety concerns were still being felt by the visitors who came, the journalists who covered, and the city that hosted the event.

“Remember that if you see something unusual, say something,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser at a Tuesday press conference. “And I'm glad that you've been doing that over the last several days. And our agencies have been following up on every last concern. The eyes of the world are on DC right now. And we're going to continue to show everyone why Washington D.C. is the greatest city in the world.”

As Biden was taking the oath of office at the Capitol, which had been stormed by pro-Trump insurrectionists just two weeks ago, a small crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered outside the perimeter fencing, waving flags and signs under the watchful eyes of National Guardsmen. Jack Burns traveled from Hoboken New Jersey to attend.

“I came because I wanted to show that we’re not afraid, that Trump’s mob is not going to scare us off,” said Burns. “Light wins out over dark.”

Burns said when he saw what happened on Jan. 6, he was nauseated and cried tears of anger. But as he stood just blocks from the Capitol dome on Jan. 20, he had a very different feeling.

“Yeah, I feel very safe,” he said. “I feel like it’s pretty much been shut down. I don’t think they’re going to have any presence here at all. It’s a tremendous show of force. They stayed home. I don’t think they’re going to come out.”

As Burns noted, there were few Trump supporters out and about during the inauguration, and many Biden supporters took his advice and stayed home to watch it on television. In fact, walking the deserted DC streets, there were more journalists than anything else, some from as far away as Japan and Denmark.

What many of the journalists have in common is they bought personal protective gear from Mark Richards, co-owner of an Alexandria, Virginia military surplus store called Full Metal Jacket.

“I would say our media business is through the ceiling,” said Richards. “Normally it's like selling umbrellas. If it ain't raining, they ain't buying umbrellas. So if there's not a threat, a threat picture, they ain't buying, they ain't buying, bought her body armor. So in the last, like say two weeks, it's been, it's been up hundreds of percent in media sales.”

Former president Trump’s continual disparagement of journalists made many reporters feel unsafe over the last four years, and those heading to the capital to report on his departure weren’t taking any chances, buying up all sorts of gear.           

“It's body armor – both soft handgun protective and the level three/four ballistic plates to protect against rifle fire – ballistic helmets, and the big item is gas masks. We stock, actually a good mask,” said Richards. “It's perfect for journalists. It's a full face, easy to see, and it's not terribly expensive and it's real dummy proof and they love them, and that's why I stock them and we keep them, we keep them in stock year-round.”

As the peaceful transition of power took place, the words of DC Mayor Bowser the previous day seemed to sum up the optimism over what things might look like under President Biden.

“We have been through a lot together in this country,” Bowser said. “And while we've had some dark days over the past year, we've also witnessed how resilient we are as a people, Americans still deserve to celebrate the incoming administration, as well as the enduring spirit of our democracy.”

After the inauguration, President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden did just that, taking part in several events including a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.