Heightened security, worry surround Inauguration

January 19, 2021

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will say this presidential oath of office and be sworn into office on Jan. 20 at noon EST. Their opening remarks will begin around 11:30 am EST.

Ninth-grader Carys Hardy said, “I am sick of having a racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, incompetent, and ill-willed president. I am excited for someone to take office who actually cares about the country and not just himself.”

In the middle of the insurrection on the Capitol on Jan. 6, in a press conference, Biden said, “I call on President Trump to go on national television now, to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.”

Trump responded by telling his supporters to go home but continued to fuel the fire by insisting that it was still a fraudulent election, reminding his protesters of what they came to the capitol to do: stop the electoral vote.

The ratification of the Constitution in 1787 set specific regulations for Inauguration Day, including the presidential oath and the time. As the state of the country changes, so does Inauguration Day. The Constitution initially set Mar. 4 as the day the new president and vice president would take office to allow ample time for the slow count of votes. Once technology improved and the mail speed decreased, the Twentieth Amendment changed the date to Jan. 20. Similar to how the dates changed as the times changed, the security of Biden and Harris’ inauguration will increase with the current polarized nature of the U.S..

Citizens anticipate more violence on Jan. 20 than was expected for previous inaugurations. In a survey sent to the student body of St. Paul Academy and Summit School, with 11% responding, 46.8% said they strongly agree with being nervous about Inauguration Day, and 48.9% said they disagree that there will be a peaceful transfer of power. Senior Sara Browne said, “Judging by the recent events at the Capitol, I expect aggressive protest to the inauguration. I hope that everyone has learned from the acts of domestic terrorism that happened so that any sort of violence or protest from those opposing Biden can be stopped and, or controlled.”

It takes over a year to plan Inauguration day. The inaugural planning team was initially most concerned with the COVID-19 safety of the event. After the Capitol’s insurrection, they reassessed their amount of security around the participants and attendees. Historically, 55% of inaugurations have taken place in the U.S. Capitol, most of the 45% taking place elsewhere for emergencies. There is currently no plan to move the inauguration to a less public location. Instead, security teams work to make the Capitol less public. Even if security prohibits violence on the day, some students believe that it will not be out of the question for the first few weeks and possibly the first few months of Biden’s presidency. Junior Seth Grewe said, “I imagine there will be some serious stress from many Americans on both sides of the political spectrum. If nothing happens, then there will still be stress as to whether something will happen later.”

The 2021 Inauguration will have more barriers in place than usual around the Capitol and more physical force protecting the people and location of the event. There is a seven-foot fence around the Capitol. D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser issued a public emergency order through the day after the inauguration to ensure her ability to make quick decisions pertaining to the city’s safety. She requested Washington D.C. residents to download an emergency alert system app to provide efficient updates on the city’s safety.

Each National Guard logo is equivalent to 100 soldiers that will be protecting the Capitol on Inauguration Day.
Logo from nationalguard.mil (Elizabeth Trevathan)

When Trump supporters invaded the Capitol, there was only Capitol Police present. On Inauguration day, thousands of law enforcement will be there, including 21,000 authorized National Guard soldiers that have been slowly increasing in number each day since the insurrection. Around 15,000 soldiers are currently on duty. Much fewer people will attend the event as well. Usually, there are over a million visitors, and congressional members invited a total of 200,000 people alone. This year, each congressional member can only bring one guest, resulting in around 100,000 tickets. Trump will not be attending the event.

61.7% said they strongly agree with being excited about Biden’s presidency. The concerns about his term revolve around his moderate democratic views and the nation’s state after Trump’s presidency.

Junior Val Chafee said, “I have a deep-seated fear that we’ll slide back into not truly caring about politics and idolizing Biden for simply being ‘not Trump.’ I’m afraid that Democrats will be satisfied with scraps of legislation here and there so it can be labeled progress while no real change is being made, and that just because democrats put something forward that all democrats will just accept it as a good idea.”

Junior Milo Zelle said, “Biden will continue the lukewarm neoliberalism of Obama, fail to deliver an improvement in the material conditions of working Americans because of a preoccupation of compromise and moderation, resulting in another right-wing populist being elected in four years. I am also concerned about the trajectory of the courts, as Biden will almost certainly appoint centrist judges and fail to tip the balance back towards decency.”

While Inauguration Day brings fear to students, the majority of SPA students are hopeful about Biden’s presidency. Like all presidents, the citizens of the U.S. will need to hold him accountable. Like all issues within a nation, it takes the country to solve them, not just a new president. Students can watch the Presidential Inauguration in the Huss Theatre and find more information about the viewing in the US Student Hub.

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