From east to west, north to south, downtown Washington is cordoned off. At various intersections, checkpoints were set up under white tents.
Then, the closer you get to the Capitol, the more impressive the security. Behind a huge fence, which was installed after the assault on January 6, dozens of armed soldiers guard the seat of Congress.
I never thought this would happen in the United States, says Ike Gaya, originally from Japan, who lives in the American capital for his work.
Few public, many soldiers
Under normal circumstances, the swearing-in frenzy would have already taken over the streets of Washington.
Balls, receptions, concerts: so many events specific to this period of transition will not take place this year or will be held virtually.
Joe Biden’s transition team had already scaled down the size of the ceremonies, to respect physical distancing and to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
The January 6 assault on Capitol Hill forced organizers to once again scale back these already modest plans.
I ask Americans to take advantage of this presidential inauguration at home. Watch virtually on January 20.
The Mall, a huge park where fans and curious people usually gather to attend the ceremony, was closed to the public for several days. Access to 13 metro stations in the city center has been suspended.
With COVID, I would have respected social distancing. But now there is no waysays Chimaka, who has always lived in the Washington metro area.
I’m black, and there are white supremacists who were here on January 6th. I’d be scared for my life if they tried to take it out on me, she says.
Kimberley, met a little further away, still hesitates.
It is worrying, even if there are soldiers. It makes us feel a little safe, she says.
In this surreal setting, she wonders
if something is up.
Joe Biden will therefore become president on January 20 at noon in front of a minimal audience, but a military force never seen for such an event. If necessary, up to 25,000 members of the National Guard can be mobilized.
A sign of the tension in the capital, we can see in the empty streets of the city center the search notices launched by the FBI to find the people who participated in the events of January 6.
A ceremony without Donald Trump
It is a symptom, a symbol of the state of the country. […] It tells you the state of tension, of feverishness, explains Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group.
His organization, which is generally interested in international crises, has started since the election campaign to produce analyzes on the political context in the United States.
Robert Malley, who was an advisor under the Clinton and Obama administrations, recalls that the inauguration ceremony of the 46th American president will be different this year not only because of the security threat and the pandemic, but also because Donald Trump refuses to ‘attend.
He does not want to recognize, although he has said it half-heartedly, the legitimacy of President Biden, he explains.
The boycott of the swearing-in ceremony of his successor by an incumbent president had not occurred since Andrew Johnson’s absence at Ulysses Grant’s swearing-in in 1869.
Chimaka, who lives in the Washington area, was initially excited about Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. But now, she fears that this extraordinary context may portend a difficult start to the Democrat’s mandate.
I don’t think there are good things on the horizon. Just seeing the way it starts, I’m afraid it won’t get better, she says.