(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)

Central Washington is an armed fortress, fenced off with razor wire and surrounded by 25,000 National Guard troops ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, a stark contrast to previous inaugurations, when the United States capital erupted in days of celebration.


The COVID-19 pandemic had already canceled the inaugural balls and now the National Mall is closed to the public due to threats of violence from groups who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, Reuters reported. 


Almost none of the public will witness firsthand the transition of power, souring the mood of Washingtonians.


“It’s like a ghost town but with soldiers,” said Dana O’Connor, who walked with her husband past concrete barriers near the White House on Sunday. “It’s eerie. It feels super unnatural.”


Reuters reported that previous inaugurations sometimes drew over a million spectators to the National Mall, to watch the ceremony from giant television screens and the new president parading on foot from the Capitol to the White House. 


Presidential inaugurations are normally high-security events, with metal detectors at key entry points, restricted ID-only zones and National Guard supplementing local and federal law enforcement. But the level of precautions this year is unprecedented.


Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Sunday that law enforcement officials had no choice but to ramp up security after the deadly Capitol attack, where “so-called patriots would attempt to overthrow their government and kill police officers.”


“We don’t want to see fences. We definitely don’t want to see armed troops on our streets. But we do have to take a different posture,” Bowser said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”


For a nation that has prided itself as a beacon for democracy around the world, the peaceful transition of power looks anything but, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told Reuters.


“The world will see Biden sworn in, in the middle of a military camp that’s indistinguishable from the Green Zone,” Sabato said, referring to the fortress-like area of central Baghdad set up after the Iraq War.


Sabato has attended every inauguration since Richard Nixon’s second one in 1973, and Ronald Reagan’s 1985 swearing-in that was held indoors because of the bitter cold. But he won’t attend this one.


Reuters reported that the Secret Service has incorporated the term “Green Zone” into its inauguration security maps, and District of Columbia residents have started using the moniker for the vast restricted area running from two blocks east of the Capitol to the Potomac River west of the Lincoln Memorial.


The district, one of the most Democratic jurisdictions in the United States, voted 92 percent for Biden, making the current situation even more painful for many residents.

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