Hours before he is set to become the 46th president of the United States of America, Biden hosted a ceremony on Tuesday night to commemorate the 400,000 US deaths linked to Covid-19. The somber event featured a row of candles that lined the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, prompting CNN to gush that the lights were
“extensions of Joe Biden’s arms embracing America.” The U.S. Capitol Building is seen reflected after President-elect Joe Biden hosts a memorial to honor those who died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
But at a time of profound political disunity, the surreal scenes in downtown DC seem to only reinforce feelings of deep division and pathological paranoia spreading across the country.
Last week, the Secret Service announced that it was creating a Baghdad-like ‘Green Zone’ in the capital, apparently in response to alleged threats posed by right-wing extremists.
The vast security perimeter, featuring concrete barricades, razor-wire fences, walls, and military humvees, is guarded by more than 20,000 National Guard troops. With their tour of duty in the capital nearing its end, soldiers were photographed patrolling the streets around the National Mall, manning security checkpoints, and when possible, resting on the grass near the Capitol.
Members of the National Guard patrol near the U.S. Capitol building ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Andrew Kelly National Guard troops rest on a yard in front of the U.S. Capitol ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Brandon A member of the National Guard stands watch outside the U.S. Capitol ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
The militarized zone, which encompasses basically the entire downtown area, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building, has created a sense of looming danger to Wednesday’s proceedings. Judging by the images of the citizen soldiers guarding the daunting security perimeter, many seem bored and are ready to go home.
But the conspicuous presence of the military is far from the only thing that will make Biden’s swearing-in ceremony unorthodox. With the National Mall closed to the public, Biden’s inaugural committee decided to install nearly 200,000 American flags, some of them bearing the emblems of US states and territories. Dubbed the ‘Field of Flags’, the art display was designed to represent the thousands of citizens who will be unable to attend the inauguration. On Tuesday night, the ‘field’ was illuminated with 56 pillars of light, symbolizing all 50 states and US territories.
The U.S. Capitol Building is prepared for the inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Joe Biden as the “Field of Flags” are placed on the ground on the National Mall, in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2021. © Joe Raedle/Pool via REUTERS A close-up view shows the “Field of Flags” on the National Mall ahead of inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Allison Shelley The “Field of Flags” and the Washington Monument are seen from behind fences at the National Mall ahead of inauguration ceremonies for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Allison Shelley
Photographs show the Mall covered in a sea of banners, with some observers noting that aerial views of the flags show stripes of colors that, at least in one section, resemble the Russian flag.
Still, some Inauguration Day traditions appear to have slipped through the barbed-wire fences. An enthusiastic Biden supporter was photographed by Reuters zooming around on a longboard as he proudly waved a Biden/Harris flag.
A supporter of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden rides his board near the White House ahead of Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. © REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz Like this story? Share it with a friend!
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